Around 20 October, a story claiming that Afghan female national youth volleyball player Mahjabin Hakimi had been beheaded by the Taliban in October exploded in the Indian mainstream media.
Indian news outlets including ANS, Times of India, Zee news, Tribune, News18, ABP Live, India Today and others carried the story. Media outlets belonging to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also participated in the retweet. Soon, the news from India had an international reach.
However, only a few days later, the story was disproven in India. The Indian news verification agency ALT News stated that the reports of Hakimi’s death in the Indian media were false. Firstly, Hakimi had died on 5 August, and secondly, her death had nothing to do with the Taliban. Hakimi’s family suspected that she died as a result of her in-laws’ assassination, while some of her friends and relatives claimed that she died by suicide.
Some analysts believe that the Indian media has a history of rumour-mongering about Afghanistan, most notably the rumour that Haibatullah Akhundzada, the head of the country’s Taliban, may have died. His fake-news fad was particularly prominent during the fierce fighting in the Panjshir Valley. In contrast, its disinformation about the Afghan women volleyball team members rather seems understandable. (DW)