On 2 August, 2011, British blogger and PhD Student, Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) wrote a post about his investigation into the identity of an alleged Arab-American Journalist named Liliane Khalil (@Liliane_Khalil).
Jones traced back all the social media accounts of this persona, only to discover that she had made up all the events she attended, the interviews she conducted, and the people she met. In addition, she claimed to have worked at CNN in Atlanta and as a journalist for Turkish newspaper Sabah, who in fact denied knowing her. Three articles she claimed were published by Sabah, were actually copied from Reuters.
Jones also tried to analyze the relationship between Khalil and the Bahraini regime, especially since she was supposed to have been the United States Bureau Chief of Bahrain Independent (a pro-regime newspaper that has mysteriously disappeared).
In her online communications, Khalil has been in favor of all Arab uprisings except for the one in Bahrain, which she described as a plan hatched in Iran. This has led people to wonder whether she is either a Bahraini agent, or whether it could be a Western hoax, as with the recent case of the “A Gay Girl in Damascus” blog, which turned out to be authored by a middle-aged American male professor.
Khalil has not yet made any detailed replies to Jones’ allegations, but she says today that she will be commenting on it soon:
@Liliane_Khalil: I also understand that there is interest in what Dr Jones has attempted to “uncover.” I look forward to answering his questions.
Who is behind Khalil?
Bahraini blogger Mohammed AlMaskati (@emoodz) is one of those who suspect Khalil may turn out to be another example of how the Bahraini regime uses media to defend its image:
@emoodz: Twisting facts I understand, fabricating news is totally acceptable, creating pro-government international figures from scratch is a new low
Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) has also reacted to news of the the Liliane Khalil hoax saying:
@monaeltahawy: I was astounded and angry when Liliane Khalil launched a vicious attack on @NABEELRAJAB. And now she turns out to be a fake?
Bikya Masr, a news website based in Egypt, has also commented on Khalil since she has contributed writing to their website. Joseph Mayton wrote a post entitled ‘What we know about Liliane Khalil.’ He said they were suspicious when Khalil's Tumblr account was taken down, even though she said it was hacked, and that Khalil had talked about conducting interviews with Egypt's presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaradei and others, without ever delivering the stories to their website. Mayton ends the post saying:
Liliane Khalil has obviously used a number of people and organizations in recent years and this is a sad and unethical attempt to push an agenda
Later on, Mayton (@jmayton) tweeted saying:
@jmayton: So, it appears Liliane Khalil (whoever she is) is threatening to file a lawsuit against me for this article: http://t.co/eS6eA1O.
Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, Blake Hounshell, (@blakehounshell) wrote a sarcastic comment on Khalil's ability to speak Arabic:
@blakehounshell: If this Liliane Khalil woman is an Arabic speaker then I am the Queen of Sheeba http://t.co/GfWyOxz
Guardian newspaper journalist Brian Whitaker has also written about the Liliane Khalil case on his Al-Bab blog saying:
Considering that she is supposed to have been reporting for more than 10 years, there is very little information about her on the internet (even less now, because some of it has been deleted recently), and examples of her published work are very scarce.
Chan'ad (@chanadbh), a well-known blogger on Bahraini issues, wrote several tweets about the Khalil case. In one of them he wondered:
@chanadbh: I'm surprised by the number of ppl who seem to be shocked by #LilianeKhalil turning out to be fake. Does no one use Google?
American activist Jillian C. York (@jilliancyork) has also reacted sarcastically to the hoax identity of Khalil:
@jilliancyork: So, yet another hoax in #lilianekhalil. I guess this is the time to tell you all I'm a 6-year-old cat from the streets of Marrakesh.