Have updates on Coronavirus? Posting without running a fact-check could land you in jail

By: |
April 2, 2020 5:27 PM

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has constituted a COVID-19 Fact Check Unit in the PIB. The unit has become operational and it will receive messages by email at pibfactcheck@gmail.com to send responses in a defined time-frame.

Spreading fake or unverified news is a punishable offence under the Disaster Management Act 2005. (Reuters)

The Centre on Thursday warned people against posting and forwarding fake or unverified news about coronavirus. The government has made it clear that spreading fake or unverified news is a punishable offence under the Disaster Management Act 2005. The Act is already in force since March 24, 2020. “Penalties prescribed under the Disaster Management Act 2005 provide for punishment upto 1 year for circulating False Warning/Alarm with respect to a Disaster and thereby causing panic in public,” the Home Ministry said in a statement.

Disaster Management Act — Offences and Penalties

The Home Ministry also shared a part of the Act that talks about offences and their punishments. Under the act, if a person obstructs any officer in the discharge of his duty or refuses to comply with any direction given by the state or central government, he or she shall be punishable with jail term which may extend to one year. And if such obstruction or refusal to comply with directions results in loss of lives or imminent danger, the person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.

“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,” the Act states.

Sharing the relevant parts of the Act, the Centre has urged people not to circulate unverified content on coronavirus. This comes just days after the Supreme Court had advised print, electronic and social media to maintain a strong sense of responsibility and to ensure that no unverified news capable of causing panic is disseminated. It had also asked the central government to set up a dedicated portal to counter fake news about coronavirus.

Fact check unit set up

Following the top court’s directions, the central government created a dedicated Twitter account to counter fake news, and created a special page on its existing press information bureau site for comprehensive coverage on COVID-19. Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that it had constituted a COVID-19 Fact Check Unit in the PIB. The unit has become operational and it will receive messages by email at pibfactcheck@gmail.com to send responses in a defined time-frame.

The fact check unit will be headed by PIB DG Nitin Wakankar.

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