Morocco makes dozen arrests over coronavirus fake news

A worker disinfects a main avenue outside the parliament building in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, on the day Moroccan authorities called on citizens to limit their movements, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Morocco makes dozen arrests over coronavirus fake news

  • “Fake news is the first cause of panic among citizens,” said Prime Minister Saad Eddine El-Otmai
  • Other people were arrested for attacking the government over its strict measures against public gathering

RABAT: Moroccan police have arrested at least a dozen people for spreading rumors about the coronavirus, authorities said on Thursday, including a woman who used her YouTube channel to say the disease did not exist.
“Fake news is the first cause of panic among citizens,” said Prime Minister Saad Eddine El-Otmai, comparing the spread of misinformation with contagion of the disease.
Other people were arrested for attacking the government over its strict measures against public gathering, urging people to ignore them, or saying a lockdown had been implemented when it had not.
Rights groups have criticized Morocco for what they see as an increasing crackdown on free speech over the past year, including prison terms for people who have spoken against senior officials on Twitter.
The North African kingdom has confirmed 61 cases of the coronavirus and two deaths. Most of the sick caught the virus abroad, but it has now also started to transmit within Moroccan cities.
The government has closed all mosques, schools, cafes and restaurants, as well as sports and entertainment venues, and has banned all international passenger flights.
The most recent arrest was of a 48-year-old woman who was taken into custody on Wednesday after denying the existence of the coronavirus on her YouTube channel and urging her compatriots to ignore precautionary measures.
Another woman, in an audio recording widely spread on Whatsapp, said the tourist hub of Marrakech, one of Morocco’s biggest cities, was under lockdown and warned people not to go there.
A man known as “Abou Naim” was arrested for “instigating hatred” and “undermining public order” after he recorded a video on social media criticizing the authorities decision to close all mosques.
Cars with loudspeakers have been deployed in different Moroccan cities asking people to stay at home. Public transport, streets and market places have been disinfected.
A government fund that was created to upgrade health infrastructure and assist the most vulnerable economic sectors has garnered more than $1.5 billion in donations.


Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

Updated 05 August 2020

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

  • The government said the documentary tarnished the image of the country
  • Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s police chief insisted Wednesday investigations into an Al Jazeera documentary are being conducted “professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom, a day after the broadcaster’s office was searched.
Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” after the government was angered by its critical look at the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials on Tuesday searched the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Kuala Lumpur office and seized two computers, sparking fresh anger from Al Jazeera and rights groups and adding to concerns about media independence in Malaysia.
But the country’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the search by police and communications ministry officials was carried out “very professionally.”
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told AFP in an interview.
He added that Al Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated.”
The search came after seven Al Jazeera journalists were questioned by police last month in connection with the documentary.
Abdul Hamid said the probe would be wrapped up soon, after which the attorney-general will decide whether to bring charges.
But the government insists the documentary — which focused on alleged mistreatment of migrants when they were rounded up during a coronavirus lockdown in May — tarnished the country’s image.
Authorities say the round-up was necessary to protect the public from the virus.
Al Jazeera is being probed for alleged sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content, but it has stood by the documentary and insists the reporting was impartial.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs.
But he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something... that is inaccurate.”