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Too Good to Be True

Fake news reports about visa-free travel to the U.S. give false hope to Azerbaijanis. 

31 March 2017

Betting on wishful thinking, fake news outlets caused a stir in Azerbaijan this week, after announcing that U.S. President Donald Trump had signed a deal with the Caucasus country allowing Azerbaijanis to travel without visas to the U.S.

 

Published by legitimate-looking Usa-Television news website in English, the report spread like wildfire on social media, and was also used as a bona fide source by local news site Gununsesi.

 

One thing that might have contributed to the widespread suspension of disbelief was the fact that, earlier this week, Georgia did celebrate a similar milestone in diplomatic relations. Azerbaijan’s neighbor has been granted visa-free travel to most EU countries, RFE/RL reports, an “enormous achievement,” in the words of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who echoed the celebratory mood that pervaded the country.  

 

However, Azerbaijan still needs to wait before getting a similar party started. The U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, prompted by the rumors, felt the need to issue a press release saying that no changes had, in fact, been made to Azerbaijan’s visa regime, virtualaz.org writes.

 

 

  • The amplitude and impact of fake news coming from Russia led the European Union to announce additional funds for an anti-propaganda unit called East Stratcom, which was set up in 2015.

 

  • Setting up fake news sites in the run up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election proved a lucrative business for Macedonians.  More than 140 pro-Trump sites – some run by teenagers – were registered last year in Veles, a city with less than 50,000 inhabitants located in central Macedonia

 

  • The Czech Republic’s maverick President Milos Zeman criticized this year’s opening of a government anti-propaganda center in his country, saying, “We don’t need censorship. We don’t need thought police,” DPA reported. The center is expected to eventually employ about 30 people.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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