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Photos of CNN journalist covering Kabul lack context

August 17, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows CNN journalist “covered head to toe in black in 24 hours” after Taliban took over in Afghanistan.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. Two photos of Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent for CNN, circulated on Twitter -- one where she wears no head covering and another where she wears an abaya. Social media users suggested that this shows the contrast of life before and after Taliban rule. Ward explained that the first image is from a private compound, while the other was captured in public, when she was on the streets of Kabul interviewing Taliban fighters. Though she acknowledged that she’s now covering her head somewhat more fully.

THE FACTS: On Sunday, the Taliban swept into Afghanistan’s capital after the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani slipped out of the country.

While covering the surge of Taliban fighters in Kabul, Ward remarked, “They’re just chanting ‘Death to America,’ but they seem friendly at the same time. It’s utterly bizarre.”

Some social media users criticized the offhand comment, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Other posts misrepresented Ward’s reporting.

One social media user shared two photos of Ward reporting, one of her without a head scarf and another wearing an abaya.

“The Taliban are sooo ‘friendly’ that the female CNN reporter went from dressing like a free woman to covered head to toe in black in 24 hours because of... I guess... “friendship,”’ the user tweeted.

One photo is from an Aug. 15 broadcast where Ward wasn’t wearing a headscarf while reporting from a private compound. The other photo shows Ward with an abaya on an Aug. 16 broadcast while interviewing Taliban members in public.

Ward clarified on Twitter that the photos were misrepresented. “This meme is inaccurate. The top photo is inside a private compound. The bottom is on the streets of Taliban held Kabul. I always wore a head scarf on the street in Kabul previously, though not w/ hair fully covered and abbaya,” she said. “So there is a difference but not quite this stark.”

The Associated Press reported that Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, said in a conference that the Taliban would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, without elaborating. The Taliban encouraged women to return to work and allowed girls to go to school, handing out headscarves to them.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.