Nepal | June 05, 2020

Police begin crackdown on rumour-mongers

Himalayan News Service
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Government has decided to take action against those who spread misleading information 

Kathmandu, March 21

This morning, a voice message went viral on various social media. The message claimed that the government was hiding information about multiple deaths caused by COVID-19 pandemic in a hospital in Kathmandu.

Police started a crackdown on those spreading wrong and misleading information and eventually arrested the person who had created and posted the voice message. The arrestee has been identified as Bibek Thapa Magar, 20, a permanent resident of Ramechhap, who is currently living in Sipadol of Bhaktapur.

In the one-minute long audio message addressed to a person called ‘Himal’, the speaker citing a staffer of Norvic Hospital as the source of the information said that of the nine persons the hospital tested for coronavirus, six tested positive, but the hospital authorities and the government had kept the information under wraps. In the voice message the person is heard asking Himal to remain safe.

“It is also heard that four to five persons at Teaching Hospital (Maharajgunj ) had died due to the virus and were secretly cremated,” the person further claims in the voice message.

Magar also runs a news portal, which is not registered with the Press Council and Department of Information and Broadcasting, according to the Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police. The news portal named ‘jhorlenews.com’ was the website from where people had started sharing the audio clip through various social media, said police Magar had posted the voice message on his news portal around 8:00pm. Today morning however, after the audio clip went viral, he updated his news portal stating that the audio clip was ‘fake news,’ and suggested that people should be careful about such rumours.

Senior Superintendent of Police Nabinda Aryal at the CB said, “Magar was arrested for spreading rumours. But we are still trying to find out if he was the only one involved in recording the message or there were some other people involved in the case.”

After the audio was shared by a large number of social media users, Thapathali-based Norvic Hospital released a statement refuting the allegations levelled against the hospital and demanded action against the person involved in spreading fake news.

In yet another example, a video created on TikTok under the user name ‘nayanrajpanday’ claimed the government was hiding information related to the number of people infected with coronavirus and deaths caused by the virus.

“Seventeen persons died of coronavirus at Teku Hospital (Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital ) and their bodies wrapped in plastic were taken to Pashupati for cremation. Why is the government hiding this information?”

The man, who appeared to be in his early 20s, said through TikTok. He, however, at the end of the 40-second long video, said that he was saying so on the basis of a Facebook post he just read.

The man in the video also said he and his mother had gone to Teku Hospital to meet Dr Ajay Parajuli. Later, Dr Parajuli issued a statement through Facebook stating that he was not even remotely connected to the case as he was not working at the hospital.

Talking to THT, Dr Parajuli said, “These rumour mongers, who want to become popular through social media, are the real threat at this time. Their activities should be controlled.”

He said he had also asked the police to investigate the case. Similarly, Teku hospital Spokesperson Anup Bastola also said that there was no truth in what the man was saying in the video.

The government had recently issued a notice stating that stringent action would be taken against those who spread wrong or misleading information about the deadly virus.

The new penal code prohibits circulation of fake, misleading and fabricated news or information to the public with the intention of disturbing public peace and inciting riot.

According to Section 70 of the code, any person who commits such an offence shall be liable to a jail sentence not exceeding one year or a fine up to Rs 10,000, or both. 


A version of this article appears in print on March 22, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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