Sabah Man Fined For Using WhatsApp To Spread Lies About A Prisoner Dying From Coronavirus

Currently, there are more Malaysians being investigated for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus than the number of people infected in the country.

Cover image via Berita Harian

In Malaysia, there has been no COVID-19-related death.

But that hasn't stopped rumour-mongers from claiming otherwise.

In fact, even before the outbreak reached here, a man in Sabah used WhatsApp on 23 January to spread misinformation about how a prisoner in Sandakan Prison got infected and died from COVID-19, the official name given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

While the coronavirus that originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December has killed over 1,115 people as of this writing, there have been no deaths from the disease in Malaysia.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the total number of people who are infected with coronavirus in Malaysia remains at 18, out of which three have been cured and discharged.

The 67-year-old man, who is a retired employee of the Sabah State Railway Department, was charged with circulating misinformation and causing public mischief under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code

A Bernama report carried by Malay Mail said that the offence was committed at Lot 70, Jalan Selunsung, Taman Sempelang, Kota Kinabalu, at 9.34pm on 23 January. Following which, the man's lie about the prisoner dying was read by an officer of the Sandakan Prison at 10.46am the next day.

The government retiree pleaded guilty to the offence in front of Magistrate Suhailla Selag today, 12 February. Magistrate Suhailla then meted out a fine of RM5,000 on the accused, identified as Aliuudin Amit.

While Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code provides imprisonment for up to two years, or fine, or both if found guilty, the Magistrate heard an unrepresented Aliuudin promising not to repeat the mistake.

The retiree claimed that had no intention of causing embarrassment to anyone with his action.

In contrast to the actual number of people who are infected in the country, authorities are investigating a total of 22 Malaysians for spreading misinformation or rumours about the outbreak

In a report on 10 February, Malay Mail cited Roze Shaari, who is the deputy director for Intelligence/Operations at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) saying that they have opened 22 investigations over fake news and rumours about the coronavirus.

While authorities in Malaysia have been pursuing those spreading fake news about the coronavirus, CID deputy director Roze has urged the public not to spread unverified information on social media.

Image of tourists wearing facemask at KLIA used for illustration purposes only.

Image via New Straits Times

Last week, a journalist was charged for spreading fake news:

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