Back to Africa Check

No, BBC and CNN did not report Kenya-UAE diplomatic row over Dubai  fake gold

Kenyan media has been roiled by a scandal on fake gold involving an Emirati royal family in recent weeks.

The police have arrested a number of people said to be involved, and the investigation continues.

A screenshot has circulated on Facebook with the claim it shows a threatening tweet by Dubai's ruler. Africa Check debunked this as false.

Kenyans to leave UAE?

A new screenshot on Facebook shows what appears to be a BBC “breaking news” Twitter post reporting that diplomatic ties between Kenya and the United Arab Emirates have reached a low.

“Kenyans have been directed to leave United Arab Emirates immediately as relationships between the two countries reach their worst points over fake gold scandal,” it reads.

Another Facebook post seems to show a screenshot from CNN. It again claims that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, threatened consequences. “Dear Kenyans, I have given you 24 hours to get my gold back or else I’ll come for it myself and when I will come to your country, I will make sure I will turn all of you into wax.”

Was this ominous threat true? We checked.

‘This is not true’ – CNN

Both posts are sloppily written – always a clue to misinformation.

What appears to be a CNN Facebook post is written in a serif font, such as Times New Roman. Genuine Twitter posts are in non-serif fonts. The text is also improperly written, lacking quotation marks, or an attributing word such as “says”. A news organisation is unlikely to sign a post in the name of a newsmaker.

CNN correspondent Farai Sevenzo distanced the network from the story. “This is not true. We didn’t report it,” he told Africa Check.

Twitter cuts long headlines

The BBC tweet is written in grey, as opposed to black in the BBC Twitter account. Furthermore, both the text of the tweet and the article headline are three lines long, which is highly unusual.

Twitter tends to truncate or chop headlines longer than 50 to 70 characters. The headline in the tweet has 159 characters, which means it would have been chopped if it were real.

The BBC “breaking news” image has also been cropped, cutting out the top part of the globe, which is inconsistent with its use by the British broadcaster.

‘The story did not originate from the BBC’

We reached out to the BBC to confirm whether it reported the stories. The broadcaster disavowed the story.

“We are aware of a fake story with BBC News branding circulating on WhatsApp about Kenya and the UAE,” the BBC said in an email to Africa Check.  

“The story did not originate from the BBC and is not published on any of the BBC's digital or social platforms. We advise those who access BBC News via social media to check and verify any suspicious story that purports to come from the BBC on our website at:”

On 21 May 2019, the UAE Ambassador to Kenya, Khalid Al Mualla, distanced his country from the Facebook posts.

“There has been no official communication on this issue between Kenya and the UAE,” Al Mualla told the Daily Nation. – Vincent Ng’ethe (28/05/19)

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.