People around the world were shocked and angered by a disturbing report from CNN revealing the horrific reality of human slave markets operating in Libya.
The report, released earlier this month, drew international attention and condemnation of the slave markets. The slave trade has cropped-up throughout Libya in the wake of the North African country's ongoing civil war, with African migrants being sold for as little as $400.
Now, however, thanks to the influence of U.S. President Donald Trump and his war on the media, and in particular his attacks on CNN, some Libyans have begun questioning whether the report is true.
Lebanese Journalist Jenan Moussa shared an article from Libyan media suggesting that CNN's story was "fake news"
An excerpt from the Libyan article translated by Huff Post says:
"Libyans were shocked by the report of the American channel on allegations of slave markets in the country. The international reaction to the story didn’t take into consideration that this was likely wrong."
Broadcaster Libya 218 also used Trump's attacks on CNN to suggest that the CNN report can't be trusted.
“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective," the broadcaster reported, according to The Guardian.
The broadcaster further pointed out that Trump went on a tirade against CNN just days after the report broke.
But whether or not one trusts Trump or CNN, the horrors of Libya's ongoing slave trade have been documented and condemned by rights groups and humanitarian organizations for months.
"Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans, with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them," staff of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in April.
A migrant from Senegal, who himself had been bought and sold, told IOM that "when somebody died or was released, kidnappers returned to the market to 'buy' more migrants to replace them. Women, too, were 'bought' by private individuals ... and brought to homes where they were forced to be sex slaves".
Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said the situation is truly dire.
"Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of 'slave markets' for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages," Abdiker said.
Despite this horrible and well-document reality, Libyan media and diplomats, emboldened by Trump's tirades and claims of CNN being "fake news" have hit back at the report, denying its veracity.
One of Trump's tweets in particular, specifically calls into question the credibility of CNN International.
"CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!" Trump said in the tweet.
The head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj has promised to launch a full investigation into the slave markets. At the same time, the government said it does not have the capacity to fully address the problem.
Libya "is going through difficult times which affected its own citizens as well. It is, therefore, not fair to assume responsibility for the consequences of this immigration, which everyone unanimously agreed that addressing this phenomenon exceeds the national capacities," the GNA said in a statement.
In Paris and Mali, thousands marched in protests against modern-day slavery, following the CNN report. The secretary-general of the United Nations also said he was "horrified" at the reports and suggested the slave markets may amount to "crimes against humanity".
"Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights," he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also pledged his "massive support" to help get African migrants stranded and enslaved in Libya back to their home countries, according to QZ.
EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherin said the slave markets are an "unbearable" reality.
"The revelations of slavery and human trafficking are unbearable for us on both sides—European and African,” Mogherin said.
While some Libyans have jumped on the "fake news" bandwagon, others have raised their voices in condemnation
In the meantime, as the international outcry and claims of "fake news" remains in existence, African migrants continue to be bought and sold in Libya.
"We urge Libyan authorities to take this matter seriously, and make good on their pledge to investigate such allegations by conducting a speedy and transparent inquiry into alleged 'slave auctions,'" Human Rights Watch senior Libya researcher Hanan Salah told CNN.
"We also urge the Government of National Accord to hold perpetrators to account and make public their findings."