MSM outlets fall for Zimbabwe parody account in coup coverage
The BBC, CBS News, VOA News and other MSM outlets cited an unverified parody account of Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF party as though it was an official channel during their coverage of the country’s apparent military coup.
The BBC repeatedly cited @zanu_pf in its coverage of the coup, quoting their tweets on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ show and the BBC World News Twitter account. The organization also pushed multiple incorrect breaking news ‘updates’ to their readers on the basis of the tweets.
BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ presenter Nick Robinson cited @Zanu_pf as “the official Zanu PF account” and went on to repeat the account’s claims verbatim but conceded that they “can’t be sure who controls that account.”
The parody account, best known for its jokes about murdering hipsters, was sharing supposed updates on the coup and the whereabouts of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
ZANU PF has a way of solving our own problems, the situation is stable and Zimbabwe is open for business. There was no coup, but a bloodless peaceful transition- the centre is strong and there is peace with honest leadership.— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 15, 2017
Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary. Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 15, 2017
BBC World News later deleted their tweet and issued an apology for “mistakenly” citing the account.
At the time of writing, the tweets still appear in the BBC’s live updates, CBS’ online coverage, articles on National Public Radio, Press TV, The Sun, The Huffington Post South Africa and Voice of America, as well as China’s Global Television Network’s Twitter account.
In the past the @zanu_pf account has tweeted tidbits about Rihanna sharing Mugabe’s birthday, the leader’s prayers for “haters & trolls” and a warning against eating eggs benedict.
Rihanna also has a birthday today, how blessed is she to share this day with our founding father of our nation, the undying comrade Mugabe?!— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) February 21, 2016
When president Mugabe returns from his morning run, he says his prayers sparing a small space in his prayers4 haters& trolls in need of God.— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) February 16, 2017
Never, fellow African, start a day with the imperialist and devilish Eggs Benedict.— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) August 14, 2014