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Saudi trolls obfuscate Khashoggi affair with fake news about Qatari journalist 'disappearance' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Saudi trolls obfuscate Khashoggi affair with fake news about Qatari journalist 'disappearance'

Athbah was the target of a powerful Israeli cyber-weapon used by the UAE [Twitter]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2018

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A prominent Qatari journalist has denied claims propagated by Saudi Twitter bots that he has gone missing as Riyadh has come under fire over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

A prominent Qatari journalist has denied claims propagated by Saudi Twitter bots that he has gone missing as Riyadh has come under fire over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

Abdullah al-Athbah, editor-in-chief of Doha-based Al-Arab newspaper, denied the rumours on Thursday in an online statement to BBC Arabic.

"How have I disappeared while I am here?" Athbah said.

Following the disappearance of Saudi journalist Khashoggi last week, pro-Saudi Twitter accounts began circulating fake news that Athbah had vanished.

United Arab Emirates-based Erem News reported that Athbah had "mysteriously disappeared".

Saudi-backed Twitter trolls suggested he had been detained by Qatari authorities.

Athbah was the target of a powerful Israeli cyber-weapon, which close Saudi ally the UAE has used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and regional leaders.

The move comes as Riyadh has been accused of ordering a hit squad to murder Khashoggi inside its Istanbul consulate.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national living in the US since September 2017 fearing arrest, criticised policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman such as the intervention in the war in Yemen and blockade of Qatar.

Since the beginning of the controversy, Saudi Twitter trolls and automated bots have gone on overdrive attempting to shield Riyadh of criticism over Khashoggi's fate.

Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya has claimed the hit squad were in fact tourists visiting Istanbul and accused regional rival Qatar of being behind the journalist's disappearance.

Since June 2017, a Saudi-led bloc have imposed a sweeping blockade on Qatar, sparking the worst political rift to ever hit the Gulf.

A major part of the dispute has taken place online with the bloc employing fake accounts, trolls and dubious hashtags to spread misinformation.

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