'Fake news': Libya seizes on Trump tweet to dis­credit CNN slav­ery re­port

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Patrick Win­tour Diplo­matic edi­tor

A tweet by Don­ald Trump ac­cus­ing CNN of pur­vey­ing “fake news” has been seized on by Libyan me­dia to chal­lenge a re­port by the US broad­caster which sug­gested mod­ern day slave auc­tions were be­ing held in the coun­try.

Over the week­end, Trump re­sumed his at­tacks on the US net­work, say­ing: “CNN In­ter­na­tional is still a ma­jor source of (Fake) news, and they rep­re­sent our Na­tion to the WORLD very poorly. The out­side world does not see the truth from them!”

But in a sign that the US pres­i­dent’s per­sis­tent at­tacks on the cred­i­bil­ity of Amer­i­can news out­lets has a real world ef­fect, the broad­caster Libya 218 used the tweet to ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of the CNN video.

It sug­gested many of CNN’s re­ports of­ten arose out of col­lu­sion to serve political ob­jec­tives, and said: “Here the pos­si­bil­ity arises that the chan­nel has pub­lished the re­port of slav­ery in Libya to se­cure an as yet hid­den political ob­jec­tive.”

The Libyan broad­caster said it was strik­ing that the pres­i­dent’s tirade came only days af­ter the CNN re­port, which prompted global out­rage when it was pub­lished ear­lier this month.

Libyan au­thor­i­ties an­nounced that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be opened into the al­le­ga­tions of the re­port – which in­cluded footage ap­par­ently show­ing more than 10 men be­ing sold at auc­tion out­side Tripoli.

But on Mon­day, Libya 218 sug­gested Trump’s re­marks may lead to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of CNN it­self.

Libyan diplo­mats in Africa have also hit back at the CNN re­ports, say­ing they were de­signed to tar­nish the im­age of Libya. The Libyan broad­caster also high­lighted a state­ment by the Niger am­bass­dor to Libya deny­ing it had any knowl­edge of a Nige­rien cit­i­zen be­ing sold as a slave in Libya.

The head of the UN-backed gov­ern­ment of na­tional ac­cord, Fayez al-Sar­raj, has promised to mount an ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claims af­ter be­ing handed de­tailed in­for­ma­tion by CNN more than a week ago, but his of­fi­cials have also ques­tioned whether the mod­ern day slave auc­tions had ac­tu­ally taken place in ar­eas of Libya un­der the con­trol of his Tripoli based gov­ern­ment.

At an emer­gency ses­sion of the United Na­tions se­cu­rity Coun­cil in New York, France led calls for tar­get­ted sanc­tions to be ap­plied against in­di­vid­ual found to be guilty of run­ning a slave auc­tion.

French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, cur­rently vis­it­ing Africa, will at­tend the Euro­pean Union–African Union sum­mit in the Ivory Coast on Wednesday, where he will dis­cuss plans to help evac­u­ate mi­grants stuck in Libyan de­ten­tion camps.

French UN am­bas­sador Francois De­lat­tre said the UN should use sanc­tions to help stamp out traf­fick­ing in Libya. “France will pro­pose to as­sist the sanc­tions com­mit­tee ... in iden­ti­fy­ing re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties for traf­fick­ing through Libyan ter­ri­tory,” De­lat­tre said. “We count upon sup­port of the mem­bers of the coun­cil to make head­way to that end.”

He added “we can­not wait for ... the political (track) to suc­ceed, in or­der to act in a de­ci­sive way against hu­man traf­fick­ing in Libya. There is no time to waste.”

Un­der a sanc­tions regime set up in 2011, the se­cu­rity coun­cil is able to im­pose a global as­set freeze and travel ban on “in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties in­volved in or com­plicit in order­ing, con­trol­ling, or oth­er­wise di­rect­ing, the com­mis­sion of se­ri­ous hu­man rights abuses against per­sons in Libya”.

France can pro­pose names for tar­geted UN sanc­tions but needs to win con­sen­sus sup­port within the se­cu­rity coun­cil’s 15-mem­ber Libya sanc­tions com­mit­tee.

Wil­liam Swing, the head of the UN’s in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion for mi­gra­tion, said it was nec­es­sary to empty the 30 Libyan gov­ern­men­trun de­ten­tion cen­tres con­tain­ing as many as 15,000 mi­grants.

A woman holds a plac­ard as she at­tends a protest against slav­ery out­side the Libyan em­bassy in Paris. Pho­to­graph: Philippe Wo­jazer/Reuters

Peo­ple take part in a demon­stra­tion against slav­ery in Libya on 25 Novem­ber. Pho­to­graph: Anne-Chris­tine Pou­joulat/AFP/Getty Images

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