French President Emmanuel Macron’s remark that Islam is a “religion in crisis” sparked a wave of protests in several parts of the Muslim world. Tensions aggravated after Macron supported the freedom to blaspheme following Samuel Paty’s beheading by a Muslim fundamentalist. Drawings of Prophet Muhammed were projected on government buildings even as such visual depiction is prohibited in Islam. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of “attacking Islam”.
As tensions run high between France and the Muslim world, multiple media organisations reported that France revoked the visas of 183 Pakistanis living in the country and did not “bow down to pressure” imposed by Islamic nations.
“French authorities have rejected 183 visitor visas following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks on French President Emmanuel Macron,” reported ANI on November 1 further adding that the “Consulate General Of Pakistan France has requested the French authorities to allow a temporary stay of Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s sister, who is in the country to see her ailing mother-in-law”. Pasha is a former chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI.
ANI’s report was republished by Yahoo News. A similar report was carried by DNA which said, “This action of Macron government is directly linked to the anti-French rhetoric of Imran Khan.” The purported news also found a place in a blog post by The Times of India.
Hindi media outlets covered the ‘news’ much more widely than English mainstream media outlets. Reports claimed that 183 Pakistani visas were revoked and 118 Pakistani citizens were forcefully deported despite carrying proper documents. Among these were News18, Patrika, News Nation, Amar Ujala, Aaj Tak, TV9 Bharatvarsh, Dainik Jagran and Zee News.
TV9 Bharatvarsh titled its report as, “France takes big action against fanatics, revokes visas of 183 Pakistanis.”
Media outlets fall for imposter account
The reports were based on tweets by a Twitter account with the name ‘Consulate General of Pakistan France’. The account has a little over 450 followers, none among them Pakistani government institutions or officials. This itself hints that the handle is fake.
183 visitor visa provided to our citizens has been found to be rejected by french authorities following the criticism by PM Imran khan. 118 citizen with proper documents were deported forcefully. We’re currently in touch with french authority to give our citizens temporary stay.
— Consulate General Of Pakistan France (@PakConsulateFr) October 31, 2020
The Twitter account of the Embassy of Pakistan in France clarified about the misinformation. “The Embassy of Pakistan in Paris, France has only one Twitter account @PakInFrance,” read the tweet.
The Embassy of Pakistan in Paris, France has only one Twitter account @PakInFrance. Any other account claiming to represent the Embassy anywhere in France is fake & misleading & may be reported to @Twitter.@FakeNews_Buster @ForeignOfficePk @MoIB_Official pic.twitter.com/35y7NhXBkh
— Embassy of Pakistan, Paris, France (@PakinFrance) November 1, 2020
Since the handle is not verified, Alt News checked the verified Facebook page of the Embassy of Pakistan to France that mentions that @PakInFrance is its Twitter handle.
Furthermore, the tweet was retweeted by the verified handle of the spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Pakistani media also reported on the misinformation.
A plethora of Indian media outlets, therefore, claimed that France has revoked the visas of 183 Pakistani nationals and forcefully deported 118 Pakistani citizens based on an imposter account of Pakistan’s embassy in France. Ironically, several among these have fact-checking desks, for instance, The Times of India and Aaj Tak. In fact, Aaj Tak’s English counterpart India Today published a fact-check report on the misinformation. Dainik Jagran which also carried the false report has an independent fact-checking outlet Vishwas News.