It turned out difficult to find easily what are the main conspiracies spread in Azerbaijan about COVID-19 which is presumably related to reduced freedom of the media. There have been narratives that coronavirus is a fake, or that it is connected to the 5G technology. The incidence of such narratives can be inferred from disclaimers and fact-checking websites that debunk this myth.
Still, around 30-40% of people in Azerbaijan do not believe in the COVID-19. Experts relate it to the government poor communication in the early stages of the outbreak. As the government was underreporting and later, inflating the statistics, it led people debate on whether COVID-19 exists or not. Other conspiracies spread fake remedies – eating garlic or ginger to treat the virus. There are still claims that 5G spreads the virus alongside with claims that the virus was created to reduce the population of the world or to increase the sale of vaccines.
Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 were disseminated in social media mainly. According to experts from Fakt Yoxla – fact-checking network in Azerbaijan – social media platforms, such as Facebook or WhatsApp, are the main tools for spreading fake news rather than television or radio. Unlike social media, there is state control over televisions and radios which prevents the spread of fake news.
However, Sputnik in Azerbaijan disseminated the theory of Dr. Luc Montaigner, a Nobel Prize laureate, that the novel coronavirus was created in laboratories in an attempt to develop a vaccine against HIV. The outlet also published an article which denigrates EU efforts and promotes that COVID-19 is a biological weapon and it is spread artificially.
A famous doctor in Azerbaijan claimed that COVID-19 is a simple flue, while the country’s chief epidemiologist affirmed that there was no coronavirus in the country and complained that people were incorrectly “frightening” Azerbaijanis with claims that the disease had already arrived.
Considering the percentage of people that do not believe in COVID-19 in Azerbaijan, it can be affirmed that the wave of conspiracies about the novel coronavirus is successful. As an interviewed Azerbaijani put it – This is part of a big game.
“This is part of a big game. They want to lock us in our homes. So many people are separated from their loved ones, weddings have been banned, we don’t visit our elders and relatives anymore. So many old people are getting sick from loneliness. Our traditions are being destroyed.”
An official from the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies stated that Azerbaijan would not adopt 5G technology, in response to claims that it was connected to COVID-19.