CNN, NYT admit being duped by fake Twitter handle of Kabul University VC

20-year-old student tweeted that women would not be allowed to go to work or attend classes under Taliban rule


News Desk October 01, 2021
PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The New York Times and CNN were among many international media outlets forced to issue clarifications after falling for tweets from a fake Twitter handle of the newly appointed vice chancellor of Kabul University by the Taliban administration.

“Folks! I give you my word as the chancellor of Kabul University, as long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work,” said one tweet from the fake account.

A number of international media outlets soon ran the story and singled out Kabul University VC Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat for his hard-line views.

Since September 21, the unverified account, claiming to belong to Ghairat, has posted tweets that were quickly picked up by the Western media, according to a report published in The National.

However, the international media outlets had to face embarrassment when it emerged that a 20-year-old student was posting under the name of Ghairat, admitting himself that the tweets were fake.

According to the report, the student was frustrated with the suspension of classes and the appointment of Ghairat after the Taliban sacked his predecessor, Osman Babury, on September 20.

The report, quoting the 20-year-old, said that the student had set up the account "to highlight the undoing of Afghan education".

“What is going on in Afghanistan right now is the real joke,” he said in a phone call from Kabul. “It’s ridiculous. All of our leaders left the country and we are the ones left facing the Taliban."

The publication quoted him as saying that his claims were not doubted because he was "just tweeting what the Taliban are already really thinking".

After the revelations, the NYT was forced to publish an editor's note above the article regarding the earlier version of the story.

"An earlier version of this article and its headline included comments from an individual claiming to be Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the newly appointed chancellor of Kabul University, saying that women would not be allowed to go to work or attend classes at the college.

"The comments included those posted to a Twitter account in Ghairat’s name. Multiple calls to the chancellor’s office and his top aide for confirmation were turned away, with the aide saying that the chancellor would not speak to the media, and referring questions to a senior Taliban spokesman, who did not deny the account’s claims," it stated.

Similarly, CNN updated its story on its website with a correction.

"A previous version of this story and headline incorrectly attributed remarks to a Twitter account purporting to be the chancellor of Kabul University. CNN has subsequently learned that this account was not affiliated with the chancellor or the university. This story has been updated," it said.

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