On November 22, 2023, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov delivered a speech to an almost empty chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. But when he took the floor for his closing remarks, many MEPs took their seats. A photographer from the Bulgarian government’s press office captured the moment, and the image of Denkov and the full house was sent out as a press release. The image was later circulated on social media with a red “Fake” banner, with claims that the “neoliberal media” had altered the photo to make the chamber appear full. AFP consulted the EP’s stream of the session and spoke to MEPs present to confirm that the image showed the tail end of Denkov’s speech. Such dynamics are not unusual for the EP chamber, as AFP confirmed by reviewing videos of other heads of state.
On October 7, 2023, a small French far-right party called The Patriots held a demonstration in Paris, advocating for the country’s exit from the European Union and NATO. Between 1,000 and several thousand people took part, depending on the source. In Bulgaria, posts shared thousands of times displayed images of the protest claiming that it proves “the French people” want to leave both the EU and NATO. However, this claim is misleading as the images are no evidence that such a sentiment is prevalent in France. While it is true that certain parties in France endorse “Frexit” or leaving NATO or its military command, experts and polls consulted by AFP indicate that it is an exaggeration to say that majority of society are in favour.
In order to raise awareness about an abandoned metal structure in the Hungarian capital Budapest, the local chapter of a satirical political party placed a sign on the structure resembling the information boards found at EU-funded projects. The sign claims that the structure is a “tree stand for hunters with no hunter” and that it was supposedly built using 134 million forints of EU money. However, the local director of the Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) confirmed to AFP that the sign was placed by them and that it is not a real EU project. There is no sign of any such project in Hungary in the database of EU funded projects. Nevertheless, some internet users believed the sign was another example of what critics call the questionable use of EU funds by the Hungarian government. Many accuse the ruling party of corruption and of diverting the funds to party-affiliated oligarchs and companies.
The euro common currency is over? That is what an excerpt from a TV news report would lead one to believe. However, the clip, which has been shared nearly 3,000 times on African social media, is not what it appears to be. It was pulled from a 2012 fictional report by French channel M6 — part of a “what if?” series. European leaders have not announced the end of the euro.
Vaccines against Covid-19 are estimated to have saved millions of lives during the pandemic, yet false and misleading information about their safety continues to circulate online. During an event at the European Parliament in September 2023, US cardiologist Peter McCullough claimed that mRNA vaccines have caused a “wave” of severe side effects, and called for them to be banned. A video of the talk has circulated widely in several languages, including Swedish. However, as experts told AFP and as multiple scientific studies show, while the vaccines have adverse effects, severe cases are extremely rare, and several of the conditions mentioned by McCullough are more common following Covid-19 infection, rather than vaccination. Moreover, McCullough’s talk was not an official hearing at the EU parliament, as online publications suggested, but part of an event organised by a handful of MEPs.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki used campaign ads for this month’s general election to condemn the European Union’s “tragic, irresponsible migration policy” but many of the images were taken out of context or had nothing to do with migration to the bloc. The videos had been viewed more than 10 million times on social media ahead of the vote on October 15, 2023 – which saw the opposition win a parliamentary majority — and showed scenes of attacks on women, unnamed burning cities or long marches of men in the desert. Although supposedly linked to the recent migrant crisis on the Italian island of Lampedusa, an AFP investigation found that the provocative footage in fact came from as far away as the United States and dated as far back as 2016. The jumble of violent scenes was mixed with genuine images of migrants on Lampedusa.