Fact check: Minister Paul Atanga Nji did not urge all Cameroonians in Ukraine to hide in the bushes for safety

A photo of Cameroonian Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, with the phrase, “the government urges all Cameroonians in Ukraine to hide in the bush for safety” has been viral since Monday 28, February 28, 2022.

The picture shows that it was reported by the state broadcaster CRTV, as the image carries its logo. But after checking with some staff as well as some tools, the photo was screenshot and then edited in order to manipulate public opinion.

Since Monday 28 February 2022, four days after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, a twitter user with the pseudo name Man’s Not Barry Roux, a social media activist published on his account personal twitter account which has more than 1.4 million.

The same picture was also used in a news report on opera mini. The picture in question is that of Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, who frequently comments on government activities in the country since the anglophone crisis started in 2016.

The post had 3920 interactions few hours after it was posted on twitter, with 676 retweets, 129 retweets and 3115 likes. The picture of the Minister of Territorial Administration has text superimposed on it reading “The government urges all Cameroonians in Ukraine to hide in the bush for safety”.

Attached to the picture and the text message is the logo of Cameroon’s state broadcast news channel, CRTV News. Few days after it was published, it had garnered 682 interactions on twitter, with 394 comments, 1304 comments and 5125 likes.

Disclaimer Since the picture was first shared on twitter on the 28 February 2022, it has also animated debates on different professional and private WhatsApp groups. Despite the availability of the post on WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms personal twitter account and opera mini, the post has not been shared on the facebook pages of Cameroon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nor that of Ministry of Territorial Administration or the Ministry of Communication also absent on crtv web

We were able to contact Julliete Mbella, and Teneng Lucas, communication officer at the Ministry of Territorial Administration and close aid to the Minister of Territorial Adminstration respectively who both said the superimposed text was fake, since the minister had not made a comment or news outing on the war in Ukraine.

For Juliette Mbella, her reply was simple “fake” via a WhatsApp messaging app. On his part, Lucas Teneng said “no statement on Cameroonians in Ukraine”

We also contacted the Political desk editor of CRTV, Albert Njie Mbonde, who also said “its fake and the only press briefing MINAT has made after AFCON is the one on newly acquired vehicles to administrators”.

We also contacted Eleanor Ayuketah, journalist with CRTV web who said “CRTV news’ logo is always up top right like CRTV, and when information is passing, I don’t think the logo is down. The logo she added always appears at the top right corner during the news”

According to the bbc more than 10,000 African students school in Ukraine, including Cameroonians.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on the 24 March 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) has been the one updating the nation on the steps taken by the government to protect Cameroonians there.

The first release from Minrex was on the 25 March, one day after the war started. “The Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon to the Russian Federation informs the Cameroonian communities of Ukraine that it conscientiously and with special attention the development of the conflict situation in their perception placed under his jurisdiction of competence.

While waiting for the possibilities that the Government of Cameroon would guarantee them to this effect, it invites them to be more cautious and obey the orders of local authorities. Finally, she would like to express to them her full availability to receive any concern regarding it. For more information, please contact the Embassy’s Strategic Watch Cell at +7 926 203-33-60”

Before returning to the circumstances and the context in which the original photo which was manipulated was taken, we used Jeffrey’s Image Metadata viewer to verify the image and realised the image had no metadata to trace it to its original source.

The picture was a screenshot from a video taken on the 10 March 2020 from a press conference the Minister of Territorial Administration gave warning NGOs in Cameroon. Thus, the picture was screenshot from a video that was originally posted on the verified Facebook page of crtvweb.

This publication is circulating at a time when African students in Ukraine and Cameroonians in particular are trapped in the country after the start of the war in Ukraine. Some African countries like Nigeria and South Africa have been actively aiding their citizens escape the country since late February 2022.

This work was realized within the framework of the Desinfox-Africa project with support of CFI and the technical participation of ADISI-Cameroun and Media and Democracy.

By Shing Timothy, Brenda Kiven and Daniela Neba

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