Claim: EU EOM has legally endorsed President Bio as the elected leader of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a viral statement suggests.
Verdict: False. The press release did not originate from EOM. The organisation has not written anything like that in the past week.
A viral press release from the European Union Observer Mission (EOM) suggests that the mission has endorsed President Bio’s second term and congratulated him for his victory at the end of last week’s election.
The press release widely circulated on WhatsApp comes just days after Bio was controversially declared winner of the country’s general elections after a tightly fought contest. EOM, alongside other bodies, have since raised concerns over the transparency of the electoral body’s tabulation process, which saw the President win a crucial second term with 56% of the votes.
To verify this, DUBAWA reached out to the EU office in Freetown, and they confirmed it was fake and did not emanate from them.
DUBAWA then subjected the statement to thorough manual scrutiny and observed a lot of inconsistencies with previous EOM statements.
Markers proving it’s fake
- Attempt to doctor an authentic press release
This latest fake press release was forged from an authentic press release shared by the EOM on June 26, two days after the election. The title of this fake press release and the authentic one released on June 26 is similar.
The authentic press statement carried this headline:
“Voters’ commitment to a democratic process challenged by violence and lack of transparency at critical stages of elections”
The fake press release carried this headline instead:
“Voters’ commitment to a democratic process challenged by violence but was transparent with all credibility”
- Absence of social media handle and website
All public communications and press releases from the EU and EOM are also shared on their Twitter handles, EU EOM and the EU Sierra Leone website. This latest press release was not on the website.
- Wrong font, wrong layout
DUBAWA also checked previous EU and EOM statements, the layout and the fonts used. The researcher observed that they are completely different from what exists in the purported press release. EOM does not use all capital letters to write any of its statements.
Additional observation also showed that the style of the national flag on the left-hand side of the release was inconsistent with other previous works.
- Wrong referral numbers and links
Further observation also showed that an attempt to give the EOM Press Officer contact info was badly botched. Wrong spellings, wrong numbers and emails inconsistent with previous works were just written in the document’s footnote.
The press release is fake, EOM did not release any statement of this nature, and the document is inconsistent with the publication style of the EOM.