The Facebook page was quoted by many journalists in the days following the December 30 State House attack as containing a message from the president.
A part of the statement claiming to have come from the President stated: “Rest assured that the enemies of the people have been defeated.”
Unfortunately for the numerous media houses that cited the page, it was a fake—a parody account with posts invented by two Canadians. According to the report, Jay Bahadur wrote the much-cited post while sitting across the continent in his home in Nairobi, Kenya, in his basketball shorts. The Canadian-American journalist and consultant said a high school friend of his, whose name was not revealed, created the page and that both of them post to it as a gag.
Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera and the BBC all used the misleading statement, as did other media outlets as they reported on the political developments in the country.
Mr Bahadur said he has never tried to conceal his effort, saying some due diligence would have quickly exposed the page as fraud, noting that the Gambian media had denounced it in print and on Twitter. No one contacted him through the page to verify it, he added.
“It should have been obvious it was a fake to a reasonable person and certainly [to] a journalist,” Mr Bahadur said. “Under Jammeh’s interests, we had listed ‘wearing sweet aviators’.
‘When the `attack happened, Bloomberg editors believed the fake Facebook page because it had existed for years and had included official presidential statements’, a spokeswoman said. ‘Bloomberg tried to call officials to verify the account, she said, but no one answered office phone numbers, and the country’s cell phone network was down.’
Mr Bahadur said he was surprised to see his post quoted but didn’t approach any media organisations to correct their coverage. He did tell friends, though, including several other Africa reporters.
More than a week later, many media outlets were still citing the fake page. Bloomberg revised its article two hours after the first version to say that the account couldn’t be verified, the spokeswoman said. Al Jazeera has since retracted the video, and the BBC has corrected its story. Spokespeople for both outlets declined to go into detail about the original decision to use the page.
The day after the failed attack, President Jammeh denounced both the rebels and the fake Facebook page on GRTS.
“I’m surprised also to know that there are people that went out of their way to say that I have Facebook page. I don’t.”]]>