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TikTok user alters news screenshots to push Biafra agenda

Claim: A TikTok user shared screenshots of news reports by the Punch newspaper that promoted the Biafra agitation.

Verdict: FALSE. The two pinned posts of news screenshots with more engagements were altered reports, and the media platform Punch newspaper made no such publication.

Full Text

The agitation for Biafra separation still thrives despite the government arresting the leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in 2021 after he fled the country in September 2017. Since then, the supporters have employed different strategies to secure his release and propagate the Biafra agenda. 

Apart from ensuring his representation in court, some factions, known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), resorted to violence like killing unarmed Igbo residents and ordering a sit-at-home curfew. Others took to disseminating pro-Biafra news on social media.

One such found on TikTok is @Be_wise0, who frequently shares screenshots of news reports published on credible media platforms like Punch newspaper and Vanguard newspaper. When DUBAWA found his page, each of the three pinned posts had a massive engagement. The first post was a comic inquiry on the appearance of officials from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Owerri with more than 43,900 views.

The second and third posts struck a chord as they depicted an agenda and generated more engagement than the first. 

The second headline, “Reps ask Nnamdi Kanu to drop Biafra agitation, but join politics for Igbo president,” caught followers’ attention as it was supposedly published on Punch. His caption reads, “Will Nnamdi Kanu [agree] to what Reps said?” 

This post has garnered 3,949 likes and 890 comments as of Mar. 18, 2024. Also, 229 accounts bookmarked the post, which has gained more than 132,600 views.

The third pinned post was a screenshot shared on March 4, 2024. The screenshot was supposedly another publication from Punch Newspaper with the headline, “Presidency speak on Biafra, we can’t give out South-South if the 5 South-Eastern states want to go, they are free.”

It has gained over 545,500 views, 17,200 reactions, and 6,568 comments. More than 127 followers have shared the post, while 1,227 accounts bookmarked it.

The poster’s caption indicated that his followers would be happy with the news, and the comment section echoed the sentiment. For example, Mimidoo said, “[I’m] from Benue state [and] I stand and pray for Biafra. If you can’t give them the right in this zoo country, let them go in peace.”

Another user, El_Nnanyelugo, said, “[Please] when are [they] letting Biafra go, [let me fly] back to my country. We need to create [an] extraordinary lifestyle.”

The differing views observed in the comment section and the possible negative impact of the information prompted DUBAWA to fact-check the claim.

Discrepancies abound

We scrutinised his second-pinned post. The publication, dated March 5, 2024, had Dirisu Yakubu, a Punch reporter covering political parties and the National Assembly, as the byline.

A screenshot of the post.

We used a keyword search to track reports published by the reporter on March 5. Only one report matched all indicators, including the featured image of the National Assembly at a plenary session used in the screenshot. However, the headline was different.

The headline of the original publication reads, “Reps summon agric, blue economy ministers, allege fraudulent concessions.”

A screenshot of the original headline.

For the third pinned post, the margins were apparent. The headline word count was longer than the publication’s in-house style and covered the space where the publication date is often written. 

The altered headline also covered the top left corner of the featured image, which showed members of the House of Representatives at a plenary session. This is another red flag since the headline that mentioned the Presidency does not correlate with the featured image used.

The missing publication date and byline made it hard to find the original publication that was altered, if any. Efforts to forensically analyse the image were futile due to the image’s low quality.

Other screenshots found on the account were random news screenshots about other topics.

Conclusion

The screenshots were altered, and the newspaper published no report supporting the Biafra agitation. Therefore, the claim is false.

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