UN sounds alarm over fake news in troubled Mali

Protesters gestures on a barricade put up in front of the Salam mosque of Badalabougou, where the influent Imam Mahmoud Dicko led a prayer dedicated to the victims of the clashes of the past two days in Bamako on July 12, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 17 July 2020

UN sounds alarm over fake news in troubled Mali

  • The UN’s high commissioner for human rights warned on Friday of a worrying surge of fake news in the West African state of Mali
  • The UN made the warning ahead of ceremonies in Bamako on Friday by a coalition of protest groups to mourn the deaths of demonstrators killed in clashes last week

GENEVA: The UN’s high commissioner for human rights warned on Friday of a worrying surge of fake news in the West African state of Mali, which is battling a political crisis and extremist violence.
“We have reports that social media has been partially blocked — it can be seriously worrying because it is very important that people are able to access information,” the commissioner’s spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, said.
“But at the same time there are also concerns that there has been a lot of fake news disseminated on social media, a lot of messages online inciting violence.
“There are all these tensions and it risks inflaming tensions further,” said Throssell.
Such problems do not justify restricting the Internet, she said. “Shutting down the Internet can be extremely risky and can have unintended consequences.”
She reiterated a UN appeal for all parties in Mali to show restraint.
The UN made the warning ahead of ceremonies in Bamako on Friday by a coalition of protest groups to mourn the deaths of demonstrators killed in clashes last week.
According to the Malian government, 11 people died and 158 were wounded, while the UN says at least 14 demonstrators lost their lives.
The coalition is demanding that President ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who has been in power since 2013, step down.


Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

Updated 07 August 2020

Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

  • The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah
  • “Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” an LBCI presenter said

LONDON: The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, following Tuesday’s massive explosions.

“The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International decided that what comes after Aug. 4 is not like what came before,” a presenter announced on live television on Friday.

“Because after the earthquake is not the same as before, because your (Lebanese government) neglect and failure is one of the main reasons for what we have come to ... because after Aug. 4, we need actions and not words, achievements and not speeches.

“Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” she said.

“Finally, we tell people: While you are waiting for the speeches of your leaders, there are mothers who are waiting for the return of their children from the rubble — the priority is for them, not for you.”

Many Lebanese welcomed LBCI’s announcement, with several taking to social media to praise the move — especially given that Nasrallah spoke at a press conference at 5:30 p.m. local time, his first address since the blasts.

“Not only Nasrallah, but all speeches, by all parties. They are nothing more than propaganda. They own their own propaganda bullhorns, so let them use those to address their sheep, rather than block the airwaves for the rest of us,” Raghda Azad, a policy adviser, told Arab News.

“Not that LBC is a model or anything, but all television outlets should stop unquestioning and uncritical reports of so-called leaders,” she added.

However, some doubt the move will not be followed by other stations.

“I think it would be great if they all do. But I think because many people care what he says, stations feel like they should oblige,” Aya Chamseddine, a Beirut-based researcher, told Arab News.

“Generally, people tend to — even if they loathe him — root themselves in front of TVs to watch and listen. His speeches are theatrics above all,” she said. “His narrative will be predictable. He will say they know more than anyone what it means to lose people. He’ll be insulting.”

A Lebanese media expert, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, disagrees with the move.

“CNN, even when it hates (US President) Trump, carries his speeches. Nasrallah is the biggest political player in the region; when he speaks people would want to listen because of his effect on politics and our daily lives,” he said.

“The issue is analyzing what he says later, and tearing it apart when it is false or stupid, like CNN does after every Trump speech or statement.”

The boycott comes three days after Beirut was rocked by two blasts when 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate confiscated six years ago and left in a port storage hangar exploded.

The massive explosions left at least 140 people dead, over 5,000 injured and more than 300,000 homeless. Many say that government corruption and negligence are behind the explosion.