Oman becomes latest GCC nation to charge coronavirus rumourmongers

Perpetrators could face fines of up to OMR3000

An Omani family stands by the waterfront in the Mutrah area of the capital Muscat on November 16, 2018. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)
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Oman has charged a number of people for spreading false rumours relating to coronavirus, a spokesman for the country's public prosecutor said on Saturday.

Fake news and rumours spread online were causing “a certain amount of fear and panic," Dr Ahmed Al Shukaili, told Oman TV.

An unspecified number of people who published or promoted rumours about the spread of the virus have been arrested, he said, adding that some of these cases would be referred to court.

The statement was followed by a similar warning from the Government Communication Centre, detailing what punishments rumourmongers could face.

"The Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes stipulates that whoever uses the information network or information technology means to produce, publish, distribute or possess anything that violates religious values or public order, shall be punished," the statement read.

“The punishment is by imprisonment for a period of no less than a month and not exceeding three years and a fine of no less than OMR1,000 (DH9535) and not more than OMR3000 or one of these two penalties.”

Oman joins other GCC member nations who have taken steps to prevent the spread of misinformation during the crisis.

Kuwait's interior minister announced last week that it had initiated legal proceedings against people spreading fake news and the UAE's Attorney General said anyone who shared incorrect information would face legal consequences.

Oman has had 52 cases of the virus, with 12 people recovered.