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Passengers wearing face masks queue at the immigration counter upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Malaysia arrests five for spreading fake news about coronavirus

  • Four people were arrested on Wednesday and one on Tuesday for uploading false information on social media
  • Premier Mahathir Mohamad earlier warned Malaysians against spreading disinformation about the deadly virus
A tutor, two pharmacy assistants and a university student were arrested in Malaysia on Wednesday for spreading fake news about the coronavirus.
This comes after a 34-year-old man was detained in Bangi on Tuesday for spreading false information about the influenza-type virus that originated in Wuhan in China and has infected more than 6,000 people worldwide, mostly in China.

The police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission made the four arrests on Wednesday in separate operations in Melaka, Kedah and Pahang.

In a statement, the MCMC said a 49-year-old part-time tutor was arrested at around noon after allegedly uploading fake news about the virus on Facebook on Saturday.

In Melaka, two pharmacy assistants aged 25 and 30 were picked up in Peringgit and Merlimau at around 4pm to help with investigations into the spread of fake news about the virus on a Facebook page on Sunday.

A 24-year-old student at a public university in Kuantan was also arrested for the same offence after allegedly uploading fake news about the virus on Twitter on Monday.

Authorities seized four mobile phones, five SIM cards and two memory cards from the suspects. The case is being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

If convicted, the suspects could face a maximum fine of RM50,000 (US$12,000) or serve a prison sentence of not more than a year or both. They could also face an additional RM1,000 (US$245) fine if they continue to spread fake news after being convicted.

Airport staff talk with a passenger at the Chinese Traveller Helpdesk at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Photo: EPA-EFE

Earlier, Bukit Aman said it was investigating five cases of fake news circulating through social media about the novel coronavirus.

Bukit Aman CID director Huzir Mohamed said police were investigating a Facebook page believed to belong to one “Kong Tuck Wah” and three other Facebook accounts with usernames “Ibu Yati”, “Roti Sardeen” and “Gabungan Anak Terengganu”.

Police are also investigating the spread of fake news via WhatsApp, which alleged that a prison inmate died suddenly at Sandakan Prison as a result of the virus.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned Malaysians against spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, saying that the government would act against those “spreading fake news and inciting racism”.

China coronavirus: Malaysia confirms 3 new infections, taking total cases to 7

“The government will take action on those spreading fake news to instil fear among Malaysians and incite hatred among the races in Malaysia,” he said.

“Even though we believe in freedom of press, that does not mean the press should agitate people and cause people to be antagonistic towards each other. We will take action against those people.”

Read the original article here.