Authorities dismiss rumour of 13 deaths in Saravan as ‘fake news’

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - A rumour circulating on social media, which falsely suggested that 13 people in Saravan province had died, is fake news, authorities in the southern province have confirmed.

The social media site, which authorities say is run by a group hostile to the Lao regime, alleged that 13 people in Nongtaeng village, Khongxedon district, died within 15 days and hinted that the coronavirus was the cause of their deaths.

“The Provincial Propaganda and Training Board has collected information. (The claim) is untrue,” the Board said in an announcement. The board warned that the administrators of the site, whose misinformation tarnished the country’s image and could cause panic, would face a penalty under Lao law.

The fake news in relation to Covid-19 is the latest of its kind. Previous rumours falsely claimed that there were confirmed cases of infection in Laos. But there is no confirmed case of the virus in Laos so far.

Director General of the Mass Media Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Pinpratthana Phanthamaly, has warned that publishing and spreading fake news, photos, and videos that violate the Media Law and the Law on Cybercrime Prevention will not be tolerated.

Anyone found to be in violation of the law will be subject to legal action.

Causing loss or damage through social media is a cybercrime, according to Article 8 of the Law on Cybercrime Prevention.

Persons causing loss or damage through social media can receive a prison sentence of between three months and three years and fined 4 million to 20 million kip, according to Article 62 of the law.

In its announcement, the Provincial Propaganda and Training Board of Saravan province told the Information, Culture and Tourism Department; Post and Telecommunications Department; Khongxedon district Governor; Head of the district Propaganda and Training Board; and the Director of the district hospital to take action in response to the fake news.

The Provincial Propaganda and Training Board warned members of the public not to share or comment in support of fake news, and that people doing so will be penalised under Lao law.

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