Fake reportage deepens mutual hate in Iraq
Fake reportage deepens mutual hate in Iraq
In its 24th report, “Iraqi Media House” monitors a fake news that widely spread in local and Arabic media and on social media under the title “UN warning of illegal pregnancies in Karbala”.
“AsharqAlawsat” Arabic newspaper published an extensive report on its first page of the issue No. 13872, in recent November 20th under the title “UN warning of illegal pregnancies in Karbala: Basij forces and 2 million Iranians at the city for Arba’een”. The report depended on a statement by Gregory Härtl, spokesperson of World Health Organization, “religious occasions, held in southern Iraq, and which involve millions of men and women from Iraq and outside Iraq, is mostly mixed with crowds from outside, especially from neighboring Iran” he said. “the last year the same religious occasion witnessed illegal pregnancies for more than 169 Iraqi women from southern Iraq residents,” he adds.
According to the same report, the organization warned of “further illegal pregnancies this year during a religious occasion that will be held this week. Iraqi ministry of health should launch a wide campaign to raise awareness and warn of the risks of this phenomenon, which has negative effects on Iraqi society, in which orphans and street children are increasing because of war and deteriorating security condition.”
Before the organization itself issued a statement to abolish the news, “Iraqi Media House” monitored the news and the content of the statement only few hours after it was issued. After searching the official website of World Health Organization in both its Arabic and English versions in addition to its official pages on Facebook and Twitter, we found out that the statement is fake.
The official website of WHO in Arabic and English:
The official accounts of WHO on Twitter and Facebook:
“Iraqi Media House” also monitored the official page of Gregory Härtl, spokesperson of WHO, on Twitter and did not find any statement or view for him regarding the content of the news published in AsharqAlawsat newspaper and spread later in dozens of other local and Arabic websites without checking on it.
The official account of WHO spokesperson, Gregory Härtl, on Twitter:
“Iraqi Media House” found out that latst statement issued by WHO on Iraqi affairs was before November 20th, and it was on a suicide bombing happened using a medical ambulance in Samarra (northern Baghdad) in November 6th; it condemned it and considered it “a threat on the ability of providing health care and urgent medical services in Iraq.”
As a consequence of the increasing arguments in Iraq and Arab countries on the fake news, the regional website of WHO issued an official statement in the noon of November 20th, to officially abolish the content of the statement pubished in AsharqAlawsat newspaper.
Members of Iraqi media house found out that the fake news was first published in November 16th in an Iraqi news website called “AswatHurra”; 4 days before publishing it in AsharqAlawsat newspaper. It was also published in news websites before being published in AsharqAlawsat newspaper, like: DonyaAlwatan Palestinian website.
AswatHurra removed the fake news in the noon of November 20th and published news about abolishing it at the same day. At the evening of the same day the website was closed. It was not obvious if it was hacked or closed by its administration, but Iraqi media house was able to register the date and content of the news before removing it.
Before publishing the news in AsharqAlawsat, it was not spread and did not witness any local or Arabic arguments. This could refer to the fact that it was published by unknown media outlets, and it was documented by members of Iraqi media house, like: AkhbarSah (an unknown-source website from the gulf), AltameezAlbareedyyah (unknown-source), AlkhaleejAljadeed, and Tawasulwbsite (Saudi website).
Publishing the fake news in the newspaper in November 20th is what created the uproar; considering that it is a well-known international newspaper which made a huge mistake when it published material taken from unknown media outlet without checking on it, what stirred social issued inside Iraq and outside it. This all forced WHO to issue a statement to abolish the fake news at the same day and not when the original news was published first place on news websites and social media pages.
AsharqAlawsat newspaper published the abolishment of WHO to the report it published before. It removed also the fake news from its website and announced stopping working with its correspondent in Baghdad, in reference to trying to get off the hook regarding publishing a fake news related to an international organization, and not only a local news about events in his area. Haidr Al Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, called the newspaper management to apologize and threatened to sue it, while Iraqi political and religious figures issued strong statements against the newspaper.
Not the first time
Iraqi media house registers that since the beginning of 2015, monitoring the content of local, Arabic, and foreign media and monitoring the level of hate speech, they registered various examples that have similar content and media outlets got trapped by it intentionally or accidently by adopting gossips to stir arguments and produce violent hate speech on social media.
In its 8th monitoring report issued in April 2015 under the title “Iraqi media coverage concentrates on the “danger” of refugees, ignoring their humanitarian conditions”, Iraqi media house refers to the way how local media concentrated on the dangers of allowing thousands of refugees from Anbar, who escaped military actions in, to Baghdad, by publishing news and reports accusing refugees of terrorism without mentioning clear sources or depending on official statements. That created arguments among Iraqis to increase hatred and social division, and reflected as a result on the lives of some refugees in Baghdad, being killed and threatened to leave.
Iraqi media house also mentions in its 11th report issued in June 2015 under the title “Iraqi media coverage twists the documents of ‘the Saudi documents’”, that local media committed a serious professional mistake when it intentionally or accidently published fake documents they got from social media and was prepared using montage programs to defame or praise certain political and social figures.
Iraqi media house refers as well to its 15th report issued in November 2015 under the title “selectivity and bias control news and reportages related to Zurbatiyah border and the incursion of Turkish forces”, where it explained how local media severely divided on the coverage of both news, to mention early gossips on the danger of Iranian visitors on one hand, and claims about intentions of the Turkish army to occupy Mosul on the other hand without considering the simplest professional standards in journal coverage.
During its working period (21 months) on monitoring the content of local media, Iraqi media house registers the phenomenon of promoting 2 issues in journal coverages related to political and security affairs without proofs or documents; the 2 issues are “Nikahmut’ah (temporary marriage)” in a sectarian discourse against Shia, and “Jihad nikah (sexual jihad)” in a sectarian discourse against Sunnah.
Social media is considered the most worrysome platforms because of its lack to proffissionalism. As usual, users of social media were involved in strong arguments regarding the fake news titled “UN warning of illegal pregnancies in Karbala.”
Iraqi media house monitored views and hate expressions came together with republishing the news and divided into 2 parts; the first deemed it for being true and depended on it to promote for previous biased views, while the other part impugned the news and its source using insults and hate speech. Both parts were as if they were waiting for such news, while we noticed that there is an absence of rechecking published contents before publishing it, what led to the mistake of publishing a fake news. A local TV. Channel has even published the name of one of AsharqAlawsat correspondents in a breaking news, accusing him of faking the news away from the values of career.
Iraqi media house reassures on the importance of considering professionalism by media and recheck its sources before publishing it. Pulling back published news and removing it and even apologizing would mostly be a very late action after being spread in social media, creating sectarian discourse that threatens social security and peace.