Uganda battles fake social media reports amid COVID-19 spread

Monday, March 30th, 2020 14:08 |
A health worker checks a woman’s body temperature at China-Uganda Friendship Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, March 27, 2020. (Xinhua/Nicholas Kajoba)

As COVID-19 continues to spread in Uganda, anxiety and fear are building up among the public, providing fertile ground for fake social media reports to go viral.

Fake social media reports are another battlefield that Uganda is facing as it fights to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday tweeted to dismiss a social media report that he had declared a total lockdown and that the military would enforce it.

"I discourage the heartless people trying to alarm Ugandans with these falsifications. Whoever is behind such should desist from it henceforth," Museveni said.

 Police on Saturday evening swung into action by arresting a religious leader who claimed on social media that the country does not have COVID-19. Diana Atwine, permanent secretary of ministry of health, said such false utterances undermine the country's efforts to contain the outbreak.

 "We appeal to the public to desist from making false or alarming utterances concerning COVID-19 and disregard information not from authorized government structures," the police said in a statement after the arrest.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the state-owned communication regulatory body, vowed to crack down on individuals who circulate fake videos, news and advice on social media concerning COVID-19.

The UCC issued the statement on March 22 following increased cases of fake information on social media platforms, saying that such behaviors could incite violence, cause financial turmoil and endanger people's lives.

Suspects shall be prosecuted for offending the Computer Misuse Act 2011, the Data Protection and Privacy Act and other penal laws of Uganda, the statement added.

 Uganda registered its first case of COVID-19 on March 21 and now the cases have increased to 30 as of Saturday night, according to the ministry of health.

The country has instituted a series of measures to curb the spread, including banning all public gatherings and suspending public transport. It also closed all its border entry points to incoming and outgoing passengers except cargo trucks and planes.

 The government warned that Uganda may register more cases as a result of some confirmed cases interacting with the public.  (Xinhua)

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