By Aminu Imam with agency report
An on-line fact-checking website, AfricaCheck.org, yesterday published a report which exposed graphic images circulating on Facebook and Twitter, said to show the badly charred bodies of 375 Christians murdered by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, but which claim is false.
One of the images posted on the website shows horrific dozens of charred corpses lying in rows in the sun. In the background, near a ruined building with a rusting corrugated iron roof police, soldiers and medics – some of them wearing masks to hide the stench – stand around helplessly. A caption across the top of the photograph reads: “Boko Haram burns 375 Christians”.
The Boko Haram group, which gained worldwide notoriety in April this year when it kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls – has been linked to hundreds of killings and dozens of atrocities and bombings since it launched a violent insurgency in 2009 to overthrow the country’s government and establish an Islamic state.
Most recently, the group has been implicated in attacks on villages in north-eastern Nigeria in which churches were torched and more than 40 people reported to have been killed. It has also been blamed for a car bomb explosion which claimed at least 56 lives.
Faked images and pictures of purported atrocities make for powerful propaganda tools on social media sites. Often they go ghoulishly viral. In 2012, the BBC found itself in hot water after it used a photograph supplied by an “activist” showing a massacre in Syria. The picture had actually been taken in March 2003 in Iraq.
Another far more gruesome photograph was distributed on a Russian news website. It purported to show a Ukrainian man eating the arm of a Russian. In fact, the arm was a movie prop and the man holding it was a prop maker involved in a 2008 film.
In Africa, an image that was actually taken in the Central African Republic showing soldiers killing a man has been passed off on Twitter as evidence of “a homosexual stoned by police” in Uganda.
Africa Check is a non-partisan organisation, which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media.