For more than a week, leading Western media outlets led by the New York Times and CNN, had a field day berating the Taliban’s new policy about women’s education.
Citing a tweet purportedly sent by the new Vice Chancellor of Kabul University, Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the Times, CNN and others reported that women would be indefinitely barred from studies at universities.
The tweet, allegedly from the new university head, said: “I give you my words as chancellor of Kabul University. As long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work. Islam first.”
There was a major problem with this tweet. The account does not belong to the chancellor; he has no twitter account!
A student at Kabul University created the twitter account in the name of the vice chancellor and spread the fake news.
While the Times and CNN tried to reach the new vice chancellor, they were unsuccessful.
An aide to the vice chancellor said he does not speak to the media. He directed them to speak directly to the Taliban official in charge of education policy.
Kabul University and the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education released statements on Facebook on September 27, denying that Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat had any social media accounts and stated that any pages under his name were intended to spread fake news.
Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, told CNN directly on September 30 that the account was fake and he rejected its content. Despite such vigorous denials, the media outlets could not pass up this opportunity.
They lapped up the anti-women story with the Times running it on a full-page, to make sure nobody missed it. It makes for good copy berating the Taliban’s alleged oppression, especially of women.
CNN finally spoke to the person in control of the account on September 30.
“He said he was a 20-year-old Kabul University student and sent CNN a copy of his student ID. He asked CNN to call him Mahmoud, rather than his real name, due to safety concerns.”
Mahmoud said he created the Twitter account on September 21 after learning that Ghairat had been appointed as chancellor.
On September 30, CNN ran the following correction: “A previous version of this story and headline incorrectly attributed remarks to a Twitter account purporting to be the chancellor of Kabul University. CNN has subsequently learned that this account was not affiliated with the chancellor or the university. This story has been updated.”
The New York Times published its own correction but still left doubt in the minds of readers.
Its correction about the article read:
“An earlier version of this article and its headline include comments from an individual claiming to be Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the newly appointed chancellor of Kabul University, saying that women would not be allowed to go to work or attend classes at the college.
“Multiple calls to the chancellor’s office and his top aide for confirmation were turned away, with the aide saying that the chancellor would not speak to the media, and referring questions to a senior Taliban spokesman, who did not deny the account’s claims,” the note said.
How could the Times claim that the Taliban spokesman “did not deny the account’s claims” when in fact he did precisely that?
While CNN competes with the likes of Fox News for ratings and audiences, the New York Times calls itself a respectable publication.
It projects itself as the epitome of objectivity and responsible journalism.
When it comes to reporting about the Taliban, all these standards are discarded.
This, however, is not the first time the Times has been caught spreading fake news.
In August 2002, one of Times’ reporter Judith Miller spread lies about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.
These lies were fed to Ms. Miller by Dick Cheney’s office, one of the most evil men in the former Bush regime.
The New York Times splashed these allegations on its front pages to prepare the ground for the US invasion and destruction of Iraq.
Later, the Times itself admitted that these were lies.
Ms. Miller was fired but damage had already been done.
Next time, people read stories in America’s “respectable” mouthpieces, they should take them with a pinch of salt, especially those relating to Muslims.
Western media outlets and western regimes are simply not capable of telling the truth.