Wuhan virus: Malaysian police nab four people for spreading fake news

A photo taken on Jan 21, 2020, shows Malaysian health officers screening arriving passengers at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A tutor, two pharmacy assistants and a university student were arrested for spreading fake news about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The four were arrested in separate operations by the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in Melaka, Kedah and Pahang states between 11am and 5pm on Wednesday (Jan 29).

They were not the first nabbed for spreading fake news about the Wuhan virus. On Tuesday, a 34-year-old man was detained in Bangi at around 4pm for spreading false information on Sunday regarding the coronavirus.

In a statement, the MCMC said a 49-year-old part-time tutor was arrested at around noon after allegedly uploading fake news about the virus on Facebook on Jan 25.

In Melaka, two pharmacy assistants aged 25 and 30 were picked up in Peringgit and Merlimau at around 4pm to help with investigations into the spread of fake news about the virus, also on a Facebook page, on Sunday.

A 24-year-old student at a public university in Pahang's capital Kuantan was also arrested at around 4.15pm for the same offence after allegedly uploading fake news about the virus on Twitter on Monday.

The authorities seized four mobile phones, five SIM cards and two memory cards from the suspects.

The case is being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. If convicted, the four could face a maximum fine of RM50,000 (S$16,700) or serve a prison sentence of not more than a year or both.

They could also face an additional RM1,000 fine if they continue to spread fake news after being convicted.

Earlier, Malaysian police headquarters at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, said it was investigating five cases of fake news circulating through social media about the novel coronavirus.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Huzir Mohamed said police are investigating a Facebook page believed to belong to one "Kong Tuck Wah" and three other Facebook accounts with usernames "Ibu Yati","Roti Sardeen" and "Gabungan Anak Terengganu".

Police are also investigating the spread of fake news via WhatsApp, which alleged that a prison inmate died suddenly at Sandakan Prison due to the virus.

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