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