Qatar-backed news site falls for ‘Prince Harry to honeymoon in Jeddah’ prank

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 31 December 2017
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Qatar-backed news site falls for ‘Prince Harry to honeymoon in Jeddah’ prank

LONDON: Amid the media frenzy over the UK royal wedding, one Qatar-backed website has proven somewhat divorced from reality.
After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry in May, they will jet off to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia, where they will attend a monster truck rally in Jeddah and open a branch of Hooters in Riyadh.
That was, at least, the entirely fictional forecast reported by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, a well-known satirical site in the Middle East.
But Arabi 21 missed the joke — and reported it all as fact.
The news website on Saturday regurgitated the satirical claims that Saudi Arabia had paid $60 million to host the royal honeymoon — despite what it called an “austerity situation” in the Kingdom.
It repeated the Pan-Arabia Enquirer’s humorous claim that Prince Harry would open a branch of Hooters — the US restaurant chain famous for its scantily-clad waitresses — in Riyadh.
Several anti-Saudi, widely-followed Twitter accounts and news sites were also quick to retweet the story and comment negatively — all without bothering to verify its authenticity.
Arabi 21 apparently realized its mistake and unpublished the story. The website — one of several reportedly backed by Qatar as part of its “soft power” attempts — could not be reached for comment.
The founder of the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, who prefers to remain anonymous, was quick to poke fun at the site.
“We doff our hats to the fine people at Arabi 21 for picking up our entirely made up story about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle choosing to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News.
“In this age of fake news, when respected journalists are being widely dismissed as propagators of untruths, we’re thrilled to see a news organization throw caution to the wind and publish something without bothering to check the source material. Bravo!”
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer is a satire site — but the joke was lost on one Qatar-backed news website. (Screengrab)

It is not the first time a news outlet has fallen for the site’s satirical stories.
In 2014, The News International, one of the most established English newspapers in Pakistan, ran a report in which it was claimed that — at a time of heightened tension in the Gulf — Qatar had banned Saudis, Bahrainis and Emiratis from entering the London department store Harrods.
It based its story on an entirely fictional report by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer.
Another of the site’s jokes that left many people fooled included one from 2013 that stated the Dubai airline Emirates would introduce shisha lounges on board its planes. Even some members of Emirates cabin crew believed the story, according to media reports at the time.
Others fell for a spoof story about British model Katie Price, also known as Jordan, suing the country of Jordan over naming rights.
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer — often likened to “The Onion of the Middle East” — has a long history of poking fun at the region.
In 2013, it joked that a Saudi airline would introduce the religious police in aircraft cabins as “a free in-flight service.” The same year, it ran a satirical story about Qatar having “sensationally swooped in to win the hosting rights” for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A screenshot of the Arabi21 artical in Arabic.


Myanmar evicts family of officer who testified on entrapment

Updated 21 April 2018
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Myanmar evicts family of officer who testified on entrapment

  • Two reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained since December 12 on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act.
  • Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing told a court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.

Yangon: Myanmar police on Saturday evicted the family of a police officer who testified that he and others had been ordered to entrap two reporters working for the Reuters news agency who are facing charges that could get them up to 14 years in prison, the officer’s wife said.
The reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained since Dec. 12 on charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The two helped cover the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a brutal counterinsurgency operation last year drove about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.
Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing told a court Friday that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.
On Saturday, Moe Yan Naing’s wife, Daw Tuu, said she and her daughter were ordered to move out of their police housing in the capital, Naypyitaw.
“A police officer called us this morning and said we have to move out of the housing immediately and that’s the order from the superior,” Daw Tuu said, sobbing.
Moe Yan Naing said he and other colleagues who had been interviewed earlier by Wa Lone about their activities in Rakhine had been interrogated under the direction of Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko of the 8th Security Police Battalion.
The police department’s action against Moe Yan Naing’s family caused an outcry in Myanmar.
“This is an outrageous move,” said Robert Sann Aung, a human rights lawyer. “This is to give an example to other police in the country to keep silent from telling the truth.”
The court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January. The defendants’ lawyers have asked the court to drop the case against the pair, saying prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to support the case, but the judge denied the motion.