Shortly after the military coup that arrested President Robert Mugabe apparently to remove him from office in Zimbabwe, both the BBC and NPR fell for an apparently fake Twitter account posing as the account of country’s ruling party Zanu-PF. The Twitter account “is full of rants and proclamations about pornography, eggs Benedict and imperialism,” according to the BBC which noted the Wall Street Journal’s Africa reporter Matina Stevis-Gridneff called the account a parody.
The BBC cited the fake account on its BBC Radio 4’s Today program, in breaking news alerts and on its website, according to the Guardian. That said, the Today program noted it didn’t know “who was in control of the Twitter account,” the Guardian reported. One such tweet the BBC shared read, “There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained. The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained.”
On air and on Twitter, the BBC cited the @zanu_pf Twitter account. On Twitter, the BBC corrected. iMediaEthics asked if the BBC would broadcast or publish on its website any correction. The BBC told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “BBC News is including appropriate health warnings when referencing it,” and pointed to its tweet which reads:
“Earlier, we mistakenly described @zanu_pf as the official account of Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu-PF. We are sorry for any confusion.”
NPR and The Week cited tweets from the Twitter account as if it were real on their websites. iMediaEthics has written to NPR to ask if it has evidence the account is real, and if not, then if it will correct.
The Week‘s reporter, Peter Weber, told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “We did append a note, but the purported ‘parody'” account seems as legitimate as the purported ‘official’ account, if not more so.” The Week added the following update to its story:
“Update 8:53 a.m. ET:After originally describing the Zanu-PF Twitter account as an official government source, the BBC walked back its characterization. The account itself maintains its legitimacy, but it is unclear what affiliation it has with Mugabe’s ruling party. Our original story appears below.”
Earlier we mistakenly described @zanu_pf as the official account of Zimbabwe's ruling party Zanu-PF. We are sorry for any confusion.
Follow the latest developments here: https://t.co/KrhuBr7Wbg
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 15, 2017