Purveying Disinformation: What is Really Going On?

Shooting itself in the foot
Shooting itself in the foot

By Ray Ja Fraser,

Another day has brought about yet more far-fetched rumors and outlandish claims regarding Eritrea. This time, it was alleged that the Eritrean government plagiarized parts of its statement in response to the recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) report, essentially copying a statement from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea DPRK.

As has become customary with coverage on Eritrea, the allegations of plagiarism were quickly spread across social media, accompanied by sensationalist or negative headlines. Again, much of the early dissemination was conducted by fake online accounts, generally referred to as “sock puppets.”

Then all of a sudden, amidst the laughing, snickering, and accusatory finger wagging, came the truth. The Eritrean government did not plagiarize the statement and, according to Tom Miles, Chief Reuters correspondent from the Geneva bureau, the United Nations (UN) had made the errors.

Tom Miles confirming UN made the forgery
Reuters correspondent Tom Miles confirming UN made the forgery

Now ask yourself some basic questions. If you were an objective journalist or genuine human rights advocate, wouldn’t you clarify facts before penning and disseminating stories? If your report was found to be riddled with blatant, significant errors or contradictions, wouldn’t you rush to clarify or correct these? Whatever happened to truth, neutrality, honesty, authenticity, validity, factuality, professionalism, integrity, and other high-standing principles?

Instead, today’s false allegations, and the ongoing cliched reports, rumors, and broader narrative on Eritrea display, in crystal clear view, the poor state of reporting and understanding about Eritrea, and they highlight many of the worst habits of journalism, media, academia, and activism.

Gianluca Mezzofiore of IBTimes UK never sleeps
A 2013 tweet from a lead anti-Eritrea agent proves Gianluca Mezzofiore of IBTimes is anti-Eritrea that “never sleeps”, well, until he shoot himself in the foot today

More importantly, however, the rumors underscore that the focus is not on human rights or humanitarianism but, as ever, is firmly set upon destabilization, disinformation, delegitimization, and ultimately, “pinning down Eritrea.”

It is quite telling that the allegations of plagiarism originated from a Human Rights Watch “advocate” at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) bureau, a UK based International Business Times (IBTimesUK) journalist Gianluca Mezzofiore, and several individuals who have staunchly worked for aggressive regime change in Eritrea.

These facts raise important questions. As a journalist, how objective can Mezzofiore be when he has been part of a team with an acknowledged mandate for regime-change in Eritrea? Additionally, what is the exact involvement of the supposed HRC advocate; was the error-ridden document simply an editing mistake or was it a deliberate instance of diplomatic sabotage? Why did these individuals quickly (and apparently in coordinated fashion) focus on and disseminate an error-ridden document, when the original statement is and has been publicly available for weeks?

If serious allegations such as “plagiarism” can later be laughed-off as “simple errors”, what and how many other allegations may end-up similarly baseless? Will these many “questionable facts” and blatant inconsistencies be addressed or will they simply be labelled as the fanciful, far-reaching “conspiracy theories” of “regime sympathizers and trolls”?

Ultimately, this latest episode raises more critical questions and offers further damning evidence regarding the legitimacy and credibility of the original COI report and its entire process.

With Eritrea’s continued economic growth and tangible, positive development outcomes, the country’s opponents and regime-change proponents know that the government will maintain the support of the vast majority of the population.

In such a case, opponents’ only recourse is to attempt to destabilize the government in order to prompt foreign intervention or domestic unrest. Simply, as Eritrea continues to swim and not sink, expect to see more disinformation … and don’t fall for it!