The government will take stronger action against people spreading fake news on social media, especially concerning COVID-19 vaccinations in the Kingdom.
The announcement came amid authorities searching for people spreading misinformation on Facebook, especially those claiming that people are dying after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine has called on all relevant authorities to take action against social media users who are spreading the false information that a teacher died after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
An anonymous Facebook page called “This is Cambodia” recently posted a picture of the dead body of a woman, while claiming at least three people died and 10 others were sent to hospital after getting vaccinated.
The picture of the deceased person has beeen widely shared on Facebook over the past week, accompanied by statements blaming the government for her death.
However, the Ministry of Health said the victim in question was a teacher who died in Kratie province due to “meningitis”, and the incident had nothing to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.
“According to information received by the ministry, she had severe meningitis and doctors could not save her,” Vandine said. “We call on the authorities to take legal action against those who are spreading incitement and fake news.”
She added that, so far, the vaccine has not been given to teachers in Cambodia.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Kim Santepheap said he considers spreading fake news on COVID-19 as “incitement” in Cambodia, and perpetrators could be charged under Articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.
According to Article 495 of the Criminal Code, “incitement to commit a felony” or to disturb social order shall be punishable by imprisonment from six months to two years with a fine of about $250 to $1,000, where the incitement was effective.
He also said that those who spread false information regarding the death of a person after being vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine have the purpose of getting people to lose confidence in the vaccine.
Additionally, for those who share fake news on social media, he said they also face investigation from the authorities.
“I appeal to all people, before you share any information, please do a fact check first,” he said, adding that if authorities discover an offence, the suspect will face punishment.
Another Facebook post also recently claimed that authorities hadordered nationwide traffic stops to check the identity of foreigners as a result of the “February 20 Community Incident”.
City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said yesterday no such order was made.
However, he said authorities are strengthening the security at specific hotspot locations to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19 in the community.
National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he previously told Khmer Times that the National Police will strengthen its campaign to clamp down on individuals spreading fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak on social media.
The Ministry of Information also said it will expand its monitoring of social media posts to include more platforms.
According to the ministry, in 2020, there were 1,343 cases of fake news, incitement and insults that were found on social media, mainly on Facebook.
There were around 200 Facebook accounts that had action taken against them. Some were sent to the National Police while some were also reported to Facebook and the Ministry of Post for removal.