Indonesia arrests six over coronoavirus internet hoaxes

Published March 10, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse 

Six Indonesians have been arrested for allegedly spreading misinformation online about the deadly coronavirus, police said Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian nation’s confirmed infection cases jumped.

Women wearing face masks walk in a public area in Banda Aceh on March 2, 2020. - Indonesia on March 2 reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus, after health officials in the world's fourth-most populous country hit back at questions over its apparent lack of infected patients. (Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)
Women wearing face masks walk in a public area in Banda Aceh on March 2, 2020.  (Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP /file photo)

A woman in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya was arrested Monday for spreading inaccurate claims on Facebook a patient was being treated for the virus in the city, police said.

Five others were also detained for spreading false information on social media, including claims a Muslim woman flying to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage had died suddenly from the virus at Jakarta’s international airport.

All six suspects are accused of violating laws banning the spread of misinformation, which carries as much as six years in prison.

“It should serve as a lesson for other people not to spread hoaxes about coronavirus in Indonesia,” senior communications ministry official Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan said.

Last month, two Indonesian women were arrested for allegedly posting virus-linked misinformation in a country with some 130 million people online — among the globe’s biggest internet audiences.

On Monday, the country reported its confirmed cases had jumped to 19 from six.

Scientists have questioned the relatively low number of cases in the world’s fourth most populous country, and suggested there could be many more people with the illness.

COVID-19 has killed more than 4,000 people and infected over 110,000 globally since it emerged last year.

Police seized some 1.9 million facemasks from a warehouse outside Surabaya on Monday, after coronavirus sparked panic buying and sent prices for prevention products skyrocketing.