Petaling Jaya—A man was arrested in Bangi on Tuesday (Jan 28) for spreading false information about the novel coronavirus, also commonly known as the Wuhan virus.
The swiftly spreading virus, which originated from Wuhan, a city in central China, has been causing alarm worldwide, with around 6,000 people infected and a death toll of 132. The cure rate of the virus currently stands at 103, and thousands of suspected cases around the globe are being tested or awaiting results from testing.
Authorities in all countries have been calling for the dissemination of only factual information about the virus, in order to prevent undue panic or alarm.
Malaysia, however, has taken the step of arresting one man for allegedly sharing a post on social media that contained misinformation. A yet unidentified 34-year-old man was arrested in Bangi, Selangor, over a post he shared last Sunday (Jan 26).
The Malay Mail reports the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as saying that the man was arrested at his own home, authorities confiscated his cellular phone and sim card which they believe he used for sharing posts that contained falsehoods.
Under Section 233 of the country’s Communications and Multimedia Act, his action of improper use of network facilities could mean a fine of RM50,000 (approximately SGD 16,600) and no more than one year of jail time if he is convicted.
According to the MCMC, “The stern action is among efforts by the MCMC and Royal Malaysia Police to control the spread of false news on the novel coronavirus by irresponsible individuals, which could jeopardise national stability and public peace.”
The commission also said that three other individuals are currently being investigated on similar grounds, for having spread false information about the Wuhan virus.
The MCMC and Royal Malaysia Police issued a warning earlier in the week saying that the law concerning fake news would strictly be enforced, particularly in situations involving the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Malaysia’s health authorities have had to continually correct fake news about the Wuhan virus that has spread over the country’s social media, in order to avoid situations of panic, even if there has not been a widespread outbreak in the country.
Similar to its neighbour Singapore, Malaysia has so far reported seven cases of the Wuhan virus in total, with three new cases confirmed on Wednesday, January 29.
The Health Ministry of Malaysia confirmed that the three new cases all involve Chinese nationals. The three new cases are the mother of two children also infected with the virus, a 52-year-old man and a four-year-old girl.
The two children of the mother are grandchildren of a man, age 66, who is one of the first people in Singapore who tested positive for the Wuhan virus last week.
Malaysia recently implemented more stringent health checks along its international borders. Chinese visitors entering the Tuas immigration checkpoint in Johor now have a separate lane.
According to the director-general of the Health Ministry, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, thermal scanners are now in place in the country’s entry points to discover visitors who have a fever. -/TISG