Zaid Hamid has amplified the COVID-19 vaccine disinformation campaign
By Areeba Fatima | 15th June 2021 | 3:41 PM
Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, far-right writer and activist has regularly been posting tweets on his official Twitter handle regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, discrediting its legitimacy as a safety and health hazard and spreading misinformation and lies about the global vaccination program. Basic Fact Check decided to monitor his timeline on Twitter and pick out a few pieces of false information to fact-check.
Claim: Nobody died of COVID-19 in Palestine.
Fact: 3784 COVID-19 deaths have been reported by the WHO.
On 17 May Zaid Hamid posted a tweet claiming that no Palestinian has die of COVID-19 throughout the time of the conflict. However, this is not true. According to the WHO website 3,784 COVID-19 deaths were reported in Palestine by 31st March 2021. The pandemic situation in Palestine has been marred by conflict. BBC reports in March 2021, a sharp rise in infections and deaths as a result of poor and disrupted vaccination efforts in Palestine. Times of Israel reports that Israel might consider throwing away the excess vaccine doses rather than giving it to the Palestinian population who is severely under-vaccinated. WHO officials are reported to have urged the Israeili government to extend its COVID-19 vaccine program to the Palestinians as well. However less than 1% of the Palestinian population has been vaccinated so far and the ongoing offensive that the Israeli government has launched against the Palestinian peole has killed doctors and destroyed health centers. Zaid Hamid has falsely claimed in his tweet that no one was killed of COVID-19 in Palestine. In fact, given the fact that the Palestinian population is fighting the pandemic and the Israeli colonizing force simultaneously only worsens their chances of getting adequate medical relief.
Claim: Imran Khan government is forcefully vaccinating doctors, teachers, students and armed forces.
Fact: Punjab Health Minister only announced that health care workers and those at a greater risk of contracting the virus will now be vaccinated.
On 25 May, Zaid Hamid shared The Current’s article announcing that the Punjab government has decided to vaccinate medical students and healthcare workers in different sectors of healthcare. Zaid Hamid shared a screenshot of this article and claimed that the Imran Khan government is now forcefully vaccinating individuals. However, this is false. The article itself only mentions that the Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid chaired a meeting which concluded in a “possible move to vaccinate people employed in 30 other sectors where the dangers of contracting the virus are high.” Nowhere in the article is it remotely implied that this vaccination process will be forceful and without the consent of the individuals. DAWN also reported on 4 June a very slow vaccination rate in Punjab
However, this article on DAWN’s website mentions a press release by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) announcing compulsory vaccination for the education staff to be completed by 10 June. The News reported that the Sindh government has made it mandatory for every citizen to get COVID-19 vaccination. But Zaid Hamid’s tweet uses the word “forceful” which implies that in one way or another citizens are being coerced into vaccination but that is simply not true.
Claim: 161 doctors in India wrote an open letter to PM Modi rejecting the virus and demanding an immediate halt to all pandemic related measures
Fact: No Indian news outlet has published this news story and it was only shared by Pakistani accounts on Twitter.
On 28 May Zaid Hamid shared an image claiming that 160 doctors in India have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which they state that there is no evidence to establish a connection between rising deaths and COVID-19. He also adds that these doctors have requested for an immediate halt on all COVID-19 measures, lockdowns and SOPs.
When Basic Fact Check carried out a reverse image search of the attached image, it was discovered that this image has only been shared by Pakistani Twitter accounts, most of which had several tweets quoting false information and retweets of Zaid Hamid’s tweets with similar content. One of these Twitter accounts, called COVID-19 is Fitna e Duhaima is specifically dedicated to disseminating false information regarding the coronavirus.
Claim: Turning into a zombie is a possible reaction to COVID-19 vaccines and scientists are researching SOPs for such an occurrence.
Fact: The actual video from 2015 only talks about feasibility assessment of different cities of the USA in case of a hypothetical zombie apocalypse and has nothing to do with COVID-19 vaccines
On 1st June Zaid Hamid shared a 1 minute 16 second video clip where a female news anchor is speaking to the camera about the feasibility status of different cities in case of a zombie apocalypse. Hamid captions this video, asking people to take the video seriously because scientists have begun researching safety protocols for when the COVID-19 vaccine side effects start causing lunacy in those vaccinated. This is grossly misleading.
Basic Fact Check found the original version of this video uploaded on Youtube in 2015, which is at least five years before the first reported case of COVID-19. Hamid has used this video out of context to mislead his audiences into believing false information regarding the novel coronavirus.
Verdict: OUT OF CONTEXT
Claim: COVID-19 vaccine harms male fertility.
Fact: There is no scientifically proven relationship between male fertility and COVID-19 vaccine
On 12 Jan 2021 Zaid Hamid tweeted a screenshot of this article with a caption that highlights a sentence from the article, taken out of context, and implies that a study conclusively proves a harmful or adverse effect of the COVID-19 vaccine on male fertility.
However, this is misleading. On reading the article, it can be noticed that the reproductive urologist who initiated the study, did so on the basis of the fact that he found the presence of the virus in the testicles of some COVID-19 corpses. The study was done simply to explore the effects of the vaccine on male fertility but Hamid has chosen to imply that men should be scared for their fertility if deciding to take the vaccine, and this adds to the propaganda around COVID-19 which disallows the public from engaging with accurate information.
Spreading misinformation about a global pandemic disallows the readers from making suitable healthcare decisions in a perilous situation, putting them at a greater risk to the COVID-19 virus and to misinformed decision-making. These are some of the more widely shared tweets from this account which were later shared further and amplified on Twitter handles which were dedicated to only Retweeting Zaid Hamid’s tweets. The signs of a coordinated disinformation campaign demand a more coordinated effort on the corrective journalistic practices like fact-checking.
By Areeba Fatima | 15th June 2021 | 3:41 PM Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, far-right writer and activist has regularly been posting tweets on his…