South African government warns against fake news about coronavirus

A woman wearing a face mask walks on a downtown street Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, March 16, 2020.AP Photo/Themba Hadebe).

The South African government warned on Wednesday that peddling fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak “is unacceptable and dangerous to our society.”

“All of us have a responsibility to desist from peddling fake news,” acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

This came after a 55-year-old man was arrested on Monday for circulating a misleading Facebook video, in which he calls on South Africans to reject COVID-19 testing because the test kits “are contaminated.”

The suspect appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to face charges of violating the Disaster Management Act Regulation which prohibits publishing information through any medium including social media with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19.

Peddling fake news should be condemned by all South Africans who remain committed in fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said.

The government, in collaboration with key leading social media platforms, continues to work toward curbing disinformation practices within the public information systems, according to Williams.

She called on communities to work with the government and report any person who misleads the public with wrong information, she said.

“We wish to reiterate that all the testing kits and other equipment used by the Department of Health and the relevant medical institutions are of high standard that have been approved by the South African Bureau of Standards,” Williams said.