With tensions seriously on the rise in the Gulf, a Mideast satirical website joked that Qatar banned Saudis, Bahrainis and Emiratis from shopping in its upmarket London department store, Harrods - and one Pakistani paper fell for the hoax.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.
The News International, an English-language broadsheet in Pakistan, reported Monday that in retaliation for the withdrawal of the envoys, Qatar would ban citizens of those countries from the store, which Qatar now owns, according to Al Arabiya.
“Banning Arabs from Harrods may not create a big political or strategic upheaval but it is definitely an insult no rich Arab sheikh or emir would take lightly,” the newspaper said, as part of a broader story about the tensions in the region.
However, the newspaper had taken the report from satirical website The Pan-Arabia Enquirer, without realizing it was satire. The Pakistani daily cited a number of fictional quotes from the site, including from Mideast analyst "Bella Cockpit."
The New International was lambasted on Twitter for the error, Al Arabiya said, and updated the online version of the story. The print version is still available on the newspaper's website, however. The newspaper did not respond for comment, Al Arabiya said.
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer, meanwhile, gave Al Arabiya an anonymous comment: “It is a testament to the growing reach of our satirical work that publications such as Pakistan’s The News International are now turning to us as a provider of up-to-the-minute fictitious news. We applaud their decision to trust our journalists enough to not change a single word or even bother to check whether our sources exist or not.”