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Telangana IT Minister warns against spreading false information about COVID-19


ANI General News
The office of Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao on Monday issued a warning for the media and public against spreading rumours and false information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
An official statement says: "The entire humanity is facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of coronavirus today as Covid-19 has spread to almost all the countries irrespective of their economic, political and climatic conditions. However, as the coronavirus has spread at an alarming pace, very limited information is available from the competent authorities and agencies."
It said that the limited information has led the people to spread fake news, misinformation and rumours, some out of sheer ignorance and others with mischievous and mala fide intentions, and stated that this practice has become another pandemic so much that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has termed the phenomenon as an 'infodemic'.
Rao has further urged citizens to be responsible while sharing information received on digital media platforms, and not forward any information without verifying its authenticity. He also warned that the admins of such platforms will be held responsible if any member of the group indulges in spreading false information.
"Special attention must be paid with respect to people who are new to the digital media or are not conversant with the ICT tools. Such individuals must be educated on the strength and weaknesses, limits and limitations, positive and flip sides of the digital media platforms, and also on the consequences of the wrong and irresponsible use of the platforms," adds the statement.
The statement further says that spreading false information in times of such national disasters may attract imprisonment up to one year along with a fine under Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Such acts will also be a punishable offence under Section 505 of the IPC under the ground that they will cause fear or alarm to the public and induce them to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity.
The Telangana government has also notified Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 framed under the Epidemic Diseases, 1897, which did not allow any information to be disseminated on social media without ascertaining facts and obtaining clearance from competent authorities.
Calling out the important role of the print and electronic media, the release further said that some online editions of some of the mainstream media, web magazines, and online news sites are carrying sensational, misleading and panic-inducing stories from the digital media platforms as it is without any verification and proper treatment.
It further stated that some YouTube channels were also in the practice of posting videos with misleading thumbnails, calling it unethical and violative of the guidelines of digital media platforms.
"The Digital Media Wing will report such misleading and mala fide posts and videos to the concerned digital media intermediaries and will ensure proper action is taken against those publishing, telecasting such information as per the existing rules," warns the release.
It has reiterated that spreading such false misinformation on the topic will also be punishable under Sector 54 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 505 of IPC for the media organisations.
"Time has come for the citizens, media to work in tandem with the governments in the fight against COVID-19. This is a collective fight and a fight to the finish till the Coronavirus risk is completely mitigated," it further added.
With 47 new cases, the total number of COVID-19 positive cases rose to 1071 in India on Monday morning, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This includes 99 people who have been discharged or cured of the highly contagious respiratory illness.

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First Published: Mar 30 2020 | 4:18 PM IST

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