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Coronavirus: Detectives arrest man spreading falsehoods

Tuesday March 24 2020
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A doctor and laboratory specialists get ready to visit quarantined people at the KNH Infectious Disease Unit on March 15, 2020. Detectives have arrested a man for publishing misleading and alarming information on the CovidD-19 outbreak in Kenya. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

By AMINA WAKO

Detectives have arrested a man for allegedly publishing misleading and alarming information about the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak in Kenya.

Crime busters from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) picked up Mr Elijah Muthui Kitonyo, 23, for publishing a viral tweet accusing the government of lying to the public about the first coronavirus case.

In his tweet, which has since been pulled down, Mr Kitonyo alleged that he works for Kenya Airways and that he knew the name of the patient.

SOCIAL MEDIA

His post was widely shared on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp groups.

According to the DCI, the suspect will be charged with publishing false information that may cause panic, contrary to Section 23 of the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act of 2018.

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The law states that any person who knowingly publishes false information in print, broadcast, data or over a computer system, that is calculated or results in panic, chaos, or violence among citizens, or which is likely to discredit the reputation of a person, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million or to imprisonment for up to 10 years or both, upon conviction.

DCI WARNING

The DCI further warned Kenyans against sharing false or misleading information in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We urge members of the public to be responsible and to desist from authoring, publishing or sharing unconfirmed information that may cause panic and anxiety,” DCI said.

The government, through its Spokesman Cyrus Oguna, said it had taken note of videos posted online with alarming information about the coronavirus.

VIDEOS GIVEN TO DCI

Mr Oguna said the videos have been forwarded to the DCI for investigation.

The government has, at the same time, clarified that it is only using Twitter handles of the Ministry of Health (@Moh_Kenya) and the government spokesman’s (@SpokespersonGoK) to share information on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Oguna’s statement came after a video of a Kenyan woman falsely claiming to be the first patient who tested positive for coronavirus went viral.

FIRST CASE

On Friday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus after a 27-year-old woman who arrived in the country on March 5 from the US via London tested positive.

The patient is said to have flown from Ohio where she is a student.

From Chicago, she flew to London and then to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on March 5, 2020.

On Saturday, 27 people who had come into contact with the first reported patient were taken into isolation at the National Influenza Centre.

After the testing, two new cases of Covid-19 were reported.

The patients have been moved to the isolation centre at Kenyatta National Hospital for monitoring.

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