Malaysian journalist charged over 'fear-inducing' coronavirus social media posts

A photo illustration of computer user browsing Facebook. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Malaysian journalist claimed trial at a magistrate's court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (Feb 5) to three counts of making statements on the coronavirus outbreak on her Facebook account that could cause disruption of public peace.

Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, 41, pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out to her before Magistrate Tawfiq Affandy Chin.

She was accused of knowingly making the statements on the coronavirus with the intention of causing fear among the public.

The statements were made on the "Ibu Yati" Facebook account and read at the commercial crime investigation department at Bukit Aman at 10pm on Jan 26.

According to the Malay Mail, her allegedly offensive post included a warning against 1,000 Chinese nationals who arrived in Penang on a cruise ship amid the outbreak which originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month.

Penang tourism exco Yeoh Soon Hin had explained that the tourists from a cruise ship had all undergone medical examinations.

The charges were under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for statements conducing to public mischief.

Wan Noor Hayati faces a maximum two years' imprisonment, or a fine, or both, if convicted.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nurilya Ellyna Nor Azmal did not offer bail.

The accused, who was unrepresented, pleaded for a low bail.

The court fixed bail at RM4,000 (S$1,340) in one surety for each of the charges and set March 11 for mention.

Malaysian media reported that Wan Noor Hayati was a journalist with Malay daily Berita Harian and English newspaper New Straits Times, both of which are under the New Straits Times Press, which is part of media conglomerate Media Prima Group.

She has received over 20 journalism awards, including two prestigious national awards in 2014 and 2016.

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