HR‎W chief under fire for tweeting ‘fabricated’ picture of Saudi Arabia

HRW confirmed Kenneth Roth took down the tweet as it was potentially confusing

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The executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth has come under fire for tweeting a picture as if it was from Saudi Arabia when in fact it had nothing to do with the kingdom and a spokesperson for the rights group confirmed the picture shouldn’t have been used because it was potentially confusing.

Mr. Roth tweeted the picture with a reference to an alleged story claiming that a Saudi girl victim of gang rape was given 90 lashes for being without a male guardian.

In his tweet Mr. Roth provided a link to a story from the conservative website Breitbart, which in turn attributed its story to a website called Live Buddhism, whose story had been deleted.

The tweet sparked immediate reactions, with many users quickly noting that the picture published with the tweet was not from Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Roth then took down his tweet, but many say the damage has already been done as it gave rise to growing commentary on the credibility of the man who heads the prominent international human rights advocacy group.

In an email statement to Al Arabiya News, Emma Dayl, director of communication at HRW, wrote: “It was appropriate to recall this case, which happened several years ago, as we celebrate International Women’s Day. The photo in Mr. Roth’s tweet came with the article but in retrospect it shouldn’t have been used because of the potential for confusion, so Mr. Roth has taken the post down.”

Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth AP
Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth AP

Dayl added: "Many people realized the photo isn’t of Saudi Arabia (since neither the people pictured nor the location is Saudi)."

She explained that “illustrative photos from elsewhere” had to be used due to lack of available pictures from Saudi Arabia; however, Dayl's comment didn't explain how a responsible figure such as the executive director of HR‎W could tweet a “illustrative” photo without a disclaimer saying so and alerting readers that the image is not real (which is the common, professional practice in such cases)

But Saudi journalist Mamdouh al-Muhaini wrote that even the story Mr. Roth tweeted was “completely fabricated.”

He noted that “the closest story" to it was that of a Saudi girl in 2006, which according to him was widely reported inside the kingdom and ended when late King Abdullah intervened to restore her right and punish the perpetrators.

"Even if he [Mr. Roth] recalled the story from the distant past and considered it a new case, he failed to mention how it ended. So it is right to dismiss it because the events are different, and the picture is also fabricated and has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia."

Muhaini accused Mr. Roth of having "lied."

"Of course we cannot blame everyone writing and tweeting from his bedroom, but these reactions are based on a report shared by a supposedly credible man,” he wrote.

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