Picture: Ichigo121212/Pixabay
Picture: Ichigo121212/Pixabay

Spreading fake news about the coronavirus can land you in jail

By Lou-Anne Daniels Time of article published Mar 19, 2020

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Cape Town - From social media messages about helicopters sanitising the country to so-called news reports about China seeking a "court’s approval to kill the over 20 000 coronavirus patients to avoid further spread of the virus", the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a fertile breeding ground for fake news. Now South Africans can actually be prosecuted for spreading these stories. 

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the coronavirus outbreak a national disaster, clearing the way for a raft of new regulations to be gazetted, including the criminalisation of dissemination of fake news about Covid-19.

The regulations, which were gazetted on Wednesday state that: 

 any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about:

Covid-19;

Covid-19 infection status of any person; or

Any measure taken by the government to address Covid-19, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

What this means for ordinary South Africans is that simply sending on a fake report or sharing a fake news Facebook or Twitter post puts you in danger of being prosecuted.

While this may seem harsh, the measure is necessary to protect people who have been exposed to the virus or who have tested positive for Covid-19, as well as vulnerable people who could be duped into forking over their hard earned cash for a cure that, at this point, does not exist.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999

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