Clickbait post falsely claims to reveal video with ‘top secret’ plans by Ethiopian politician

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

A post shared on Facebook claims police in Ethiopia have obtained top-secret information from opposition politician Eskinder Nega after arresting him in February 2023. The post is also accompanied by a link that purportedly leads to a video revealing these secrets. But this is false: the link doesn’t lead to any video, but rather to an unrelated article.

The post, written in Afaan Oromoo, was published on Facebook on February 23, 2023, and has since been shared more than 90 times.

Screenshot of the clickbait post, taken on February 2, 2023

“Oromia police arrested Eskinder Nega, leader of Fano, in Sululta town, where he was hiding and managed to obtain top secrets from him about Fano’s preparation to crush the Oromia region,” reads part of the post. Sululta is a town on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

“Please watch top secrets that Oromia Police have obtained from Eskinder Nega by clicking the attached link,” the post continues.

The post is accompanied by an image showing two young men in military uniform.

“Fano” refers to a youth militia group in the Amhara region.

Eskinder is a popular Ethiopian journalist. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2012 for violating the country’s anti-terrorism legislation before being freed in 2018 as part of political reform implemented by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

In January 2020, Eskinder established a new political party named Balderas for Real Democracy – called Balderas for short – with the aim of running for government. However, he was again arrested in July 2020 during widespread protests that occurred following the assassination of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa.

Eskinder was released in January 2022 along with other political prisoners after the attorney general dropped charges brought against them.

In a surprise move, Eskinder withdrew from his party in August 2022. According to local media reports, he accused the government of coercing him to quit.

On February 26, 2023, the Balderas party announced that Eskinder was arrested in Bure in Amhara. It shared a video of him speaking to a youth group, which the party said was filmed in Dejan, about 144 kilometres from Addis Ababa.

In the video, Eskinder confirmed he had been arrested and briefly taken to Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region, but that the youth group had prevented authorities from taking him back to Addis Ababa.

Screenshot taken on March 02, 2023, from a video showing Eskinder speaking to a youth group

AFP reported on February 27, 2023, that Eskinder was released after being detained for two days in Bahir Dar.

However, the link included in the Facebook post does not lead to a video showing “top secrets” obtained from Eskinder about any alleged attack plans.

Clickbait post

Instead of leading to a video with “top secrets”, the link in the Facebook post directs to a website with an article in Afaan Oromoo and English.

The headline, in Afaan Oromoo, reads: “Oromia police have arrested Eskinder Nega and obtained top secrets from him”.

However, the rest of the article, which is in English, bears no relation to the headline.

It is a summary of the Oromo people’s history, before and during the creation of the Ethiopian nation-state.

Facebook’s edit history feature shows that the author of the post edited the story several times. One of the posts edited was about humanitarian assistance for drought-affected people in Borana while the other claims the Oromia president warned the Amharas.

AFP Fact Check has previously debunked social media posts shared in Ethiopia that use clickbait to lead readers to unrelated articles, such as here and here.

Written by Tolera Fikru Gemta