Online disinformation campaign seeks to blame Qatar for coronavirus crisis

Online disinformation campaign seeks to blame Qatar for coronavirus crisis
Qatar, which is subject to a blockade by its Gulf neighbours, is the latest target for blame over the COVID-19 pandemic.
2 min read
24 March, 2020
Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed an ongoing blockade on Qatar since 2017 [Getty]

An online disinformation campaign seeks to blame Qatar for the global coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published on Monday.

Qatar, which is subjected to an ongoing blockade by its Gulf neighbours, has been targeted by numerous social media accounts - both real and fake - that claim the country is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, according to Coda Story.

Last week, Saudi-based columnist Noura Almoteari tweeted that Qatar knew about the existence of the virus since 2015, a claim that has been widely ridiculed.

She has also previously accused Qatar of paying China to "grow the virus", in addition to spreading COVID-19 to harm Saudi Arabia's post-oil economy plans and the UAE's upcoming Expo 2020.

Almoteari also coined an Arabic-language hashtag that translates to #Qatar_Is_Corona, which was shared by hundreds of Twitter users, Coda Story reported.

Prior to Almoteari's tweets, now-suspended Twitter bot accounts blamed the small Gulf country for spreading COVID-19 to Argentina in January and February, according to online magazine.

This month has seen blame over COVID-19 passed around the Middle East, without evidence, on several occasions.

Egypt's minister of religious affairs has alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to spread the coronavirus among members of the armed forces, police, judiciary, and media.

A Saudi commentator, during his appearance on Saudi television, also accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of working to spread coronavirus to Arab countries.

In a letter addressing the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appeared to suggest that the epidemic had been intentionally orchestrated, providing the opportunity to rehearse a robust ''biological defense drill''.

Khamenei did not specify who he believed to be responsible for the outbreak.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in 2017.

The four countries accused Doha of backing radical Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking closer ties with Saudi arch-rival Tehran, something Qatar strongly denied.

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