Jordanian freelance columnist Noura al-Moteari is being ridiculed on social media in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after insinuating in a recent tweet that the coronavirus outbreak was a “Qatari plot par excellence.”
“I think that the coronavirus structure and its spread is Qatari par excellence … and that Doha paid billions to grow this frightening virus in China with the aim of hitting the year 2020, the year dedicated toward Saudi Vision 2030, Dubai Expo 2020, the end of the Ottoman caliphate, the achievement of the Riyadh agreement and the return of peace to the Middle East,” said al-Moteari, who has more 217,000 followers. The tweet itself only about 1,500 retweets.
Her tweet has caused widespread controversy with many pro-Qatar pundits and Qataris on social media who used al-Moteari’s tweet to accuse Saudi Arabia and the UAE of pushing the same false narrative.
Al-Moteari freelances as a columnist focusing on “political mythology” for the al-Bayan newspaper in the UAE and the al-Okaz daily in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Moteari later told The Associated Press that her tweet was written as “satire” and was not meant to be taken literally.
The Dubai Media Office confirmed in statements to the Associated Press that al-Moterari had written the piece in a “cynical style” while distancing the Arabic-language daily al-Bayan from the writer.
“Noura is a freelance writer and is not an employee of Al-Bayan nor does she represent the publication’s views,” the media office told the Associated Press.
The writer herself also confirmed that she was not a full-time employee of either the UAE’s al-Bayan newspaper not the Saudi al-Okaz, and that she was freelancing as a columnist at both dailies and that her statements represent herself alone.
On al-Bayan’s website, al-Moteari’s author biography page left her nationality as empty.
Despite the confirmation that al-Moteari is neither an Emirati nor Saudi Arabian national, pro-Qatari media still erroneously reported her as being Saudi Arabian.
State-owned Al Jazeera’s Mubasher Arabic website described al-Moteari as “Saudi Arabian journalist” and Qatari newspaper al-Sharq described her in an article as a “UAE mercenary,” despite the UAE government’s statement disavowing itself from the writer.
“The idiocy in the Saudi/UAE narrative machine knows no bounds – in order to tie into state-imposed top-down information ops, local "journalists" go as far as blaming Qatar for the spread of the [coronavirus],” Dr. Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at the King's College London known for his pro-Qatari views, said in a tweet.
One Saudi journalist makes a silly statement on twitter and is corrected immediately on twitter by her many Saudi colleagues but every one of the Qatari surrogates in the West jump on it with glee. All they are doing is exposing their roles as Qatari surrogates. https://t.co/UpcFMqSaoP— Ali Shihabi (@aliShihabi) March 1, 2020
Saudi writer Ali Shihabi responded to Krieg’s criticism by pointing out that al-Moteari was widely criticized in the Kingdom for her tweet.
“One Saudi journalist makes a silly statement on twitter and is corrected immediately on twitter by her many Saudi colleagues but every one of the Qatari surrogates in the West jump on it with glee. All they are doing is exposing their roles as Qatari surrogates,” Shihabi said.
Saudi Arabian and Emirati people online were quick to respond against al-Moteari’s tweet, saying that she was misguided and that she should not have written the tweet despite claiming to be a satirist.