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Hamas and curious case of learned friend who’s not quite learned

Many newsrooms nowadays rely on social media stories. It has been proven that trending topics can influence the way people understand the world around them. To remain relevant, media houses pick trending topics to engage their audiences. Research also indicates that trending topics online have been used to spread misinformation and disinformation. Verification of content online for media houses must be prioritised. Some of the topics picked in the October 9-15 week include Israel, Hamas, and Gaza, #ShameOnNationMedia, Kelvin Kiptum, #UtamaduniDay, Kipchoge and Kiptum, Gatanga MP, Brian Mwenda, Mike Ross and COTU, Athi River, Portland & Mavoko, and EPRA.

  1. Israel, Hamas & Gaza

The Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,300 people, and taking scores of hostages. Israel announced a “siege” of the occupied Gaza territory – cutting its supplies of electricity, fuel, food, goods, and water. Some 2,450 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes and a ground offensive is also expected. The Israeli military has prepared for an offensive by dropping 6,000 bombs on Gaza. On social media, Israel surged to the top spot with 1,910K tweets, dominating discussions for over 21 hours. Meanwhile, Hamas claimed the second spot with 4,710K tweets, and Gaza took the fourth position with 3,664K tweets.

Impact on media

There has been a barrage of claims from both Israel and Palestine on the attacks with narratives and counter narratives shared on social media. The data on social media trends offers valuable insights into public sentiment and engagement with the crisis. Israel, Hamas, and Gaza all trended prominently, reflecting the global interest in the conflict. The large number of tweets suggests that people are actively discussing and sharing information about the crisis on social media platforms. Traces of misinformation and disinformation have been identified and this is likely to skew how media reports the war between the two countries. Verification of content during a crisis is crucial to provide facts to the masses who are keenly following up the issues.

  1. Kipchoge and Kiptum

Kenyan athlete Kelvin Kiptum made history in Chicago by smashing the men’s marathon world record, surpassing his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s previous achievement by an astonishing margin of over 30 seconds. The remarkable 23-year-old completed the race in a stunning time of just two hours and 35 seconds. Kiptum crossed the finish line an impressive three minutes and 27 seconds ahead of his fellow countryman, Benson Kipruto, while Belgian runner Bashir Abdi secured the third position.

Impact on media

Kiptum’s record-breaking performance made headlines not only in sports media but also in mainstream news outlets around the world. His accomplishment was celebrated and widely reported. The coverage did not go without cases of false narratives. The lack of response from Kipchoge generated significant media coverage. News outlets highlighted the story and it became a subject of interest and discussion. This increased coverage helped draw attention to Kiptum’s victory and the subsequent public reaction. We picked up an incidence of a parody account for Eliud Kipchoge that spread misinformation and flagged it on our social media accounts. https://twitter.com/MediaObserverK/status/1712043876700102773

  1. Brian Mwenda, Mike Ross & COTU

On October 12, the Law Society of Kenya Nairobi branch released a statement disclosing that Brian Njagi Mwenda does not possess the credentials to be recognised as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, nor is he affiliated with the society. LSK president Eric Theuri called for the expeditious arrest of Mwenda and his associates, along with the initiation of a comprehensive investigation into their activities. Francis Atwoli, the secretary general of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), expressed support for Mwenda. Claims that the alleged fake advocate won 26 cases garnered significant public attention. Some even christened him ‘Kenya’s Mike Ross,’ a character portrayed as a college dropout turned unlicensed lawyer in the USA network’s series Suits. Mwenda trended for over 21 hours.

Impact on media

The media is likely to give extensive coverage to the case involving alleged impersonation and fraud. Such stories tend to attract public interest due to their potential implications on public safety and trust. The fact that Brian Mwenda Njagi’s case trended highlights the role of social media in amplifying news. This can reinforce the importance of traditional media and professional journalism in providing reliable and verified information in contrast to rumours and speculations on social media.

4. #ShameOnNationMedia

The hashtag trended following circulation of a demand letter to Nation Media Group by St Peter’s Orthopedic and Surgical Specialty Centre. The hospital in Kiambu County said an article on the front page of the Saturday Nation’s October 14, 2023 issue falsely claimed that the facility received Sh379.9 million from NHIF through fraudulent billing. The hospital denied the accuracy of the story and demanded a retraction and apology.

Impact on media

Media organizations rely on their credibility and the trust of their audience. Accusations of incorrect reporting can erode public trust. If the allegations are substantiated, it could harm the credibility of Nation Media Group. The Nation had not publicly responded at the time of compiling this report.

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