Fake news watch: Phony facts and bogus reports

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, now has to deal with “fake” images on social media purporting to show her leaving Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Fake news watch: Phony facts and bogus reports

  • Arab News presents a weekly roundup of bogus reports and phoney facts in the mainstream and social media

LONDON: Here we present a weekly roundup of bogus reports and phony facts in the mainstream and social media.

Bogus images of Christian woman leaving Pakistan
Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, now has to deal with “fake” images on social media purporting to show her leaving Pakistan, AP reported.
Although it was unclear who was behind the images, which prompted death threats to a lawmaker shown in one photograph, it was likely they were intended to whip up radical religious fervor over Bibi’s case.
Some have demanded that Bibi be publicly executed, and have filed a petition to repeal her Supreme Court acquittal. The government says Bibi remains in Pakistan, at a secret location for her own protection, until the review process is finished.
Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry slammed the “fake” postings on Monday, one of which claims to show Bibi meeting Pope Francis, AP reported. The photo is actually of Bibi’s daughter from two years ago. Bibi and her family have always maintained her innocence.
“People can even be killed because of such fake postings,” Chaudhry said. The pictures were widely circulated on social media in Pakistan and shared on several local journalists’ groups, even a police and a media group.
“We are trying to seek cooperation from Twitter and Facebook against such fake news,” Chaudhry added.

No defense for Iraq minister claims
Iraq’s National Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, has denied the latter’s nomination for the post of minister of defense.
The coalition statement said some media outlets have recently reported statements or “leaks” claiming that Allawi has nominated himself for the position.
The office added that “the National Coalition, while calling on the media to investigate the accuracy of the news … categorically denies the validity of those rumors, and confirms that Allawi did not run for office at all, but nominated several names for this position.”

A lesson on fake news in Egypt
Egypt’s Education Minister Tarek Shawki has denied a rumor spread on social media claiming that free education will be canceled in government schools and universities.
Shawki had previously said that the issue of free education should not be left without discussion and requires reconsidering.
The minister’s remarks came during a meeting of a House of Representatives committee, sparking a storm of controversy and speculation that the minister wants to abolish free education, a right protected by Egypt’s constitution.
In an interview with Egyptian media outlets, Shawki said those who misquoted him and were behind spreading the rumor should be punished.


Al Jazeera Arabic’s long history of anti-Semitism

Updated 21 May 2019
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Al Jazeera Arabic’s long history of anti-Semitism

  • Experts: Chairman Hamad bin Thamer to blame as Qatari network comes under fire over ‘Holocaust denial’ video

LONDON: Al Jazeera came under renewed fire last weekend following the airing of a video branded as “Holocaust denial” on Arabic youth channel AJ+, which claimed that Jews exaggerated the scale of the genocide to help establish Israel.
This, however, is not the only incident in which the Qatari-owned news network was seen as being anti-Semitic and promoting such rhetoric. It has, time and again, proven to be a platform for preachers of hate, war and extremism.
Experts told Arab News that hate speech has been the cornerstone of Al Jazeera since its inception, saying the two employees fired for the recent AJ+ Arabic video were mere scapegoats.
If anyone is to blame, experts said, it is the long-term chairman of the Al Jazeera network, Qatari royal Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani.
“If someone deserves the punishment, it would be him because of the channel’s history under his management,” said veteran journalist Abdellatif El-Menawy, who was until 2011 the head of news at Egypt’s national broadcaster.
El-Menawy said what happened at AJ+ is not surprising given that Al Jazeera’s reputation and history are “based on stirring hatred among people.”

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RELATED: Qatari network Al Jazeera slammed over ‘Holocaust denial’ film

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He added: “Proof of this is when the channel adopted, at a stage in its history, Osama bin Laden and his extremist speech that divided the world. There are also advocates of terrorism and discrimination who had TV programs for years, such as Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (who calls) for hatred of the other.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English’s former international bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, told Arab News that the network’s editorial policy is “just as duplicit(ous) as the foreign policy of the Qatari government, which funds and drives the force of the daily coverage” of the channel. “One day they’re praising the Jewish community on their English-language channel directed at Western viewers, and the next day they’re promoting hate speech against the Jews on their Arabic channels, and allowing preachers like Qatar-based Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to endorse the killing of innocent women and children on Al Jazeera Arabic just because they’re Jews.”
Through his Al Jazeera program “Sharia and Life,” Egyptian cleric Al-Qaradawi issued religious edicts calling for the killing of Jews.
“Take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … They’ve spread too much tyranny and corruption on Earth. Oh God, take this Jewish Zionist band of aggressors and don’t spare a single one of them. Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none,” he said in a Jan. 9, 2009, sermon aired on Al Jazeera Arabic. In another sermon aired on Jan. 29 and 30 that same year, Al-Qaradawi said: “Throughout history, God has imposed upon them (Jews) people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was that of Hitler. What he did to them — even though they exaggerate this issue — he managed to put a limit to what they were doing. This was a divine punishment for them. Next time, God willing, it will be done at the hands of the faithful believers.”
Fahmy is engaged in an ongoing lawsuit against the network for negligence, and he is not the only one to have taken legal action. Shannon High-Bassalik, Al Jazeera America’s former senior vice president for programming and documentaries, sued the defunct US network and its former CEO Ehab Al-Shihabi for violating her civil rights and breaching her contract.

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BIO

Name

Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani

Role 

Chairman of Al Jazeera Media Network since 1994

Government ties 

Cousin of former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Controversies 

Under Hamad bin Thamer’s tenure, Al Jazeera was seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and imprisoned former Egyptian President Mohammed Al-Mursi. Al Jazeera’s program “Sharia and Life,” with Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, was widely criticized for inciting hatred and anti-Semitism. Al Jazeera also aired “exclusive” Osama bin Laden tapes.

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In one clause of the lawsuit, High-Bassalik said: “As ratings failed to live up to the expectations of management, Al Jazeera openly decided to abandon all pretense of neutrality in favor of putting the Arabic viewpoint front and center, openly demanding that programs be aired that criticized countries such as America, Israel and Egypt.”
Employees made inflammatory statements such as “Israelis are like Hitler,” and “anyone who supports Israel should die a fiery death,” the lawsuit claimed. “Rather than discipline these offending employees, the Company brazenly demonstrated its true feelings by terminating the employment of individuals who dared stand up to complain about such blatant discrimination, especially coming from an ostensibly unbiased news organization.”
While there are many examples that give a sense of the anti-Semitic rhetoric that flows through the network’s airwaves, its most recent video led to the suspension of two journalists, with the network’s top bosses washing their hands of the case.
“The video content and accompanying posts were swiftly deleted by AJ+ senior management from all AJ+ pages and accounts on social media, as it contravened the Network’s editorial standards,” a company statement said.
But El-Menawy said: “The decision to stop and punish those who participated in such a documentary is a bluff.” Al Jazeera representatives did not respond when asked by Arab News whether action would be taken against other employees at the network.
US Embassy cables acquired by UK newspaper The Guardian in 2009 prove just how interconnected the Qatari government and Al Jazeera are.
“Al Jazeera, the most watched satellite television station in the Middle East, is heavily subsidized by the Qatari government and has proved itself a useful tool for the station’s political masters … Despite (the government of Qatar’s) protestations to the contrary, Al Jazeera remains one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools,” the cable read.
Fahmy, who is now CEO of the Canada-based Investigative Journal, said: “Unfortunately, it’s a network that’s nothing more than an extension of Qatari intelligence. It’s not a conclusion based only on the content it airs, but mostly on the malicious news-gathering process and irregular and illegal practices behind the scenes, with individuals and terrorist groups — a process that can in no way be affiliated with the noble craft of journalism.”