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Kenya: ‘Avoid Kenyans’ Because of COVID-19 No, Southern African Newspaper Headline Photoshopped

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What looks like a front page of the Southern Times newspaper is circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp in Kenya. The headline reads: “Avoid Kenyans at all costs.”

Text below the headline refers to the Covid-19 outbreak in Kenya: “Wit rising COVID-19 cases and individuals who avoid to self quarantine despite massive travels, Could Kenya become the ‘Italy of Africa’ pretty soon?” The front page photo shows Kenya Airways aircraft.

Italy has long had the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Europe, although Spain now has the most cases on that continent.

The Southern Times is headquartered in Windhoek, Namibia, with an office in Harare, Zimbabwe. It calls itself “the newspaper for southern Africa” and is distributed throughout the region.

The spelling mistakes and casual language in the front page circulating online are signs that it may have been manipulated.

But did the newspaper publish this anxiety-inducing headline? We investigated.

Page from November 2018

Africa Check searched for the headline and subhead online, but could not find it on the Southern Times website or anywhere else.

We then searched for the other headlines on the front page, to see if they were linked to real, published stories.

One of the headlines was “Lesotho lowers SADC flag”. The full headline of the story, which was published in the Southern Times on 26 November 2018, was “Lesotho lowers SADC flag as SAPMIL ends intervention mission”.

This tipped us off that the possibly manipulated front page may have been published around 26 November. A review of all the front pages posted on the Southern Times Facebook page in November 2018 revealed that the original cover of the weekly for 23 to 29 November appeared on 26 November.