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WHO director-general not arrested, claim started as satire

July 26, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: “Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the current director of the World Health Organization (WHO) has been arrested by Interpol and is being held in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. WHO confirmed to The Associated Press that this is false. The information originated as satire.

THE FACTS: The bogus claim that Interpol arrested the WHO chief for “crimes against humanity” comes from an article published Sunday on The Vancouver Times, a satirical website that identifies itself as “the most trusted source for satire on the West Coast.”

Still, the article spread widely across the internet this week as Facebook and Instagram users falsely claimed it was real.

Social media videos with screenshots from the article amassed thousands of views, elevating its claims that the WHO director-general’s advocacy for COVID-19 vaccines could have led to his arrest.

WHO confirmed in an email that the claims were false, and an internet search found no legitimate reporting to indicate the director-general was arrested.

In addition to targeting WHO, which has been the subject of many baseless claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, the satirical article echoed a familiar false conspiracy theory that the pandemic was planned. It also claimed that COVID-19 vaccines are “dangerous” and “untested,” when in reality, rigorous testing has found them to be safe and effective for all age groups.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.