By Leonard Kamugisha Akida,
The beloved Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday is “still with us” and rumours about his death have been labelled as fake news.
The fake news spread like wildfire earlier on Wednesday after a Twitter account under the name of Bishop Stephen Moreo, tweeted he had died.
The account, which has since been deactivated and removed from Twitter, had over 15 000 followers.
The Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg also released a statement refuting the claims.
“Social media reports circulating worldwide that quote the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, the Rt Rev Dr Steve Moreo, as having said Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had died, are false and malicious.
“The Diocese of Johannesburg decries the falsehood being spread on social media and asks people to respond with extreme caution to fake media reports such as this,” it stated.
South Africans began to mourn the revered reverend online before the Desmond Tutu Foundation commented on the viral tweet confirming it was fake news.
“The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation can confirm this is not true, it is fake news. @TheDesmondTutu as well as Mrs Leah Tutu are still with us. Thank you,” the tweet read.
“The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation outrightly condemns the false, irresponsible, mischievous news that has been circulated today about our Founder Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu is firmly with us,” read the statement.
This is not the first time fake news of his death did the rounds. In 2018, fake media reports claimed he died while on a visit to the US.
Tutu, recently urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 after he and his wife, Leah, received their jabs on the first day of the vaccine roll-out for over-60s.
During the Struggle years, Tutu used his position as a priest to call for a non-violent end to apartheid.
It has since been established that the fake Twitter account which announced dead the spiritual African Nationalist was created in August by an Italian Journalist and shared its first post on Wednesday.
Within 40 minutes of posting the first tweet claiming Tutu’s death, the account claimed that the person behind it was Italian journalist, author and schoolteacher, Tommasso Debenedetti.
“This account is a hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti,” the account posted.
Moments later, the account was deleted.
A Google search of Debenedetti reveals that he is renowned for creating fake social media page.
According to a Wikipedia page, Debenedetti has, since 2011, created fake Twitter accounts of famous world personalities, spreading fake news.
The page states that in 2012, a hoax announcing the death of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad created a global rise in the price of oil.
“Other Debenedetti Twitter hoaxes were picked by important news sources, fooling many newspapers,” including The New York Times, The Guardian and USA Today, reads the Wikipedia page.
In response to the news of Tutu’s alleged death, the Tutu Legacy Foundation tweeted: “The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation can confirm that this is not true, it is fake news. @TheDesmondTutu as well as Mrs Leah Tutu are still with us. Thank you.”
In the past Debenedetti has said that he created fake Twitter accounts “to show how easy it is to fool the press in the era of social media”.
Attempts to reach Debenedetti for comment as to why he reportedly tweeted that Tutu had died are ongoing.Follow Us on Social Media