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Spreading coronavirus rumors subject to imprisonment in India, UAE

/ 05:55 PM March 18, 2020
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As the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are also fighting against misinformation and hoaxes about the novel coronavirus.

For one, spreading rumors and sharing fake news regarding COVID-19 on social media is a punishable offense that would land offenders at least one year in jail in the United Arab Emirates.

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The state-owned Dubai Media Office via Twitter on March 18 warned citizens of the legal consequences once they violate the said law.

“Spreading [rumors and] circulating fake news badly affect society… Legal consequences are in place to deter such irresponsible actions,” the post read.

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Some of the effects of spreading rumors include “undermining the stability of the community, creating the negative mood, impacting on public security and harming the public interests.” Potential violators will be held accountable in accordance to the Federal Law, the media office stated.

The penalty for rumormongers posts a minimum of one year jail time, but some cases may not reach one year depending on the crime committed, according to UAE attorney-general Dr. Hamad Al Shamsi in a press briefing via Gulf News on March 16.

The Indian government likewise warned its citizens that spreading rumors as the world scrambles to contain the spread of COVID-19 will land them also in prison.

“Spreading false news and [rumors] are bad for society,” Hyderabad police commissioner Anjani Kumar stressed on Twitter on March 14. “Those who spread false information on social media and creating panic on [coronavirus] are liable for punishment [National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)] act section 54.”

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Section 54 of the NDMA’s Disaster Management Act, cited in the post, states that “whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.” JB

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