Spreading rumours, fake news on social media punishable under law

Perspectives

False reports and rumours about the coronavirus outbreak have been doing the rounds on social media of late, creating fear and panic among the people.
On Thursday, a hoax voice message claiming the first case of COVID-19 had been confirmed at the Yangon General Hospital spread quickly on Facebook messenger. The message, recorded in a male voice, said the hospital’s deputy medical superintendent had confirmed the coronavirus case.
Due to growing fears of the virus’s spread, people have been flocking to buy necessities and food.
The Ministry of Health has warned the public that rumours circulating on COVID-19 cases in the province are all false, and that there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in Myanmar.
People have been advised not to believe the rumours and fake information. Those spreading fake information and rumors on social media are violating the law. Those found spreading rumors intentionally to cause panic will be punished according to the law.
Rumours and misinformation spread fast when people are afraid.
With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March, the government yesterday announced the suspension of public gatherings, including the New Year water festival, until 30 April, adding that if needed, the suspension period will be extended.
The WHO’s announcement has called on countries, including Myanmar, to strengthen and speed up plans to respond to the virus, which include reducing long-term negative consequences as a result of the virus, increasing effectiveness of health regulations to prevent its spread, reducing negative effects on the national economy, other sectors, and potential losses, and disseminating health precautions and guidelines to the general public.
People must take note that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our country yet, and the government’s measures are intended to check any coronavirus infection as the virus can spread rapidly in crowded places.
After declaring the COVID-19 a pandemic, the WHO has made six recommendations to the public to prevent the transmission of the virus: activate emergency response, organize public participation in disease control measures, identify cases and quarantine confirmed patients, conduct laboratory tests in suspected cases, and follow personal hygiene.
Instead of falling for fake news and rumors about the coronavirus, people have been advised to adhere to the general health guidelines and precautionary measures issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports.
Anyone found spreading fake information and rumours on social media about coronavirus in the country will be punished according to the online law.

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