‘Fake news’ row hits Eurovision ahead of final

Jessika and Jenifer Brening took to the stage with a troupe of dancing robots to perform Who We Are in Lisbon on Thursday night, as the country sought a place in the final of the song contest for only the second time in its history.

But the act failed to make the cut, joining eight other nations – including Russia, making a brief return following a ban in 2017 – in tumbling out of the second round of this year’s semi-finals.

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In the wake of the disappointment, the country’s head of delegation has launched a stinging attack on Italian broadcaster RAI 4, accusing its commentators of “scandalous” and “intolerable” behaviour during the performance.

Alessandro Capicchioni accused the Italian commentators of making “dishonest” comments when they suggested that San Marino voted against the Italian contestant Francesco Gabbani last year to ensure he would not win.

Gabbani finished five places and and more than 500 points behind victorious Salvador Sobral of Portugal.

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“This is a completely fake news story and professionals, or presumed professionals, should carefully avoid such dishonesty, especially considering that they are speaking on behalf of one of Europe’s oldest and most respected public broadcasters,” Mr Capicchioni said.

“They even used the word ‘infamous’ to describe a definitely friendly country.”

He also pointed out that Italy still would have finished in sixth place even if San Marino had awarded its act with the maximum 12 points, and that Italy has never awarded San Marino with more than six.

The spat between San Marino, a tiny country on the Italian peninsula, and its bigger neighbour came ahead of Saturday’s final in the Portuguese capital, which gets underway at 8pm UK time.

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It means San Marino are unlikely to award too many points to Italy, which is represented by Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro, who automatically entered into the final as one of the “Big Five” countries, along with Germany, the UK, Spain and France.

Solo singer SuRie is flying the flag for the UK, but the bookmakers’ favourites are Israel’s Netta Barzilai, Eleni Foureira of Cyprus, and French duo Madame Monsieur, whose politically charged track Mercy is about migrants who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean hoping for a better life in Europe.

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