Fines up to RM50K for sharing fake news on coronavirus

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) have jointly issued a warning against those that spread fake news regarding the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Sharing of false information and news is an offence under Section 505 of the Penal Code which carries a fine and/or a jail sentence of up to two years. Offenders can also be charged under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) which carries a maximum fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment up to one year, or both.

Both the MCMC and the police will not tolerate such behaviour that creates unnecessary fear, panic and annoyance among the public. Social media and instant messaging platforms have been identified as the main source of spreading fake news.

In the past few days, there have been a number of fake reports including a claim that a prisoner had died from the virus after eating mandarin oranges. The Ministry of Health has debunked the viral message through an official statement via Facebook.

There’s also the allegation that Malindo Air has brought Chinese tourists that are escaping from the Wuhan outbreak to Langkawi, but this has also been debunked by the travel agency. The Ministry of Health has also shared that Malaysia has not recorded any tourist arrivals from Wuhan, China since 23rd January.

Today there were also rumours that Mahkota Hospital Melaka is barring visitors while an alleged infected victim was admitted at Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. Both news are also debunked by authorities as untrue.

At the moment, four individuals have been identified by the MCMC and the police to assist in investigations with regards to the spreading of false information. The general public is urged to verify all information before sharing it among their peers and contacts. For the official source, Malaysians are urged to refer to the Ministry of Health or the World Health Organisation for the latest and accurate news on the Coronavirus.

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At the moment, the number of Coronavirus cases in Malaysia remains at four and there are five pending cases from Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur and Bintulu. According to the Ministry of Health, there were a total of 38 suspected cases but only one was confirmed positive, 32 are negative while the five are still awaiting lab results.

Putrajaya has suspended all visa programs for visitors coming from Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan. This includes eNTRY (visa-free entry), visa on arrival, e-visa and manual Visa to Chinese nationals from the city of Wuhan and Hubei province. The immigration facility will be restored once the situation returns to normal.

Singapore takes action against fake news on Wuhan virus

Meanwhile, the Singaporean Government has also announced that swift action will be taken against false news on the Wuhan Coronavirus. The authorities will not hesitate to use the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) against any party that spreads falsehood.

A post on HardwareZone forum yesterday had alleged that a man had died from the virus in Singapore which is untrue. The post was eventually taken down after a general correction notice was issued to SPH Magazines which operates the online forum.


Editor’s note: This article and its headline has been amended for accuracy.

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Alexander Wong