Police arrest youth producing misleading audio clip on COVID-19

Published On: March 22, 2020 08:21 AM NPT By: Ashim Neupane

Norvic Hospital clarifies no suspect has tested positive yet

KATHMANDU, March 22: After a few hours of a misleading audio clip on COVID-19 going viral on social networking sites, police have arrested the person who allegedly produced the clip on the charge of disseminating fake information and creating panic among the public.

A team of police from the Cyber Bureau arrested Bibek Thapa Magar, 20, a permanent resident of Ramechhap district, from Sipadol in Bhaktapur for producing the audio clip claiming around five persons have already died in Nepal after being infected with the coronavirus.

In the one-minute audio clip, Magar is heard calling his friend Himal and sharing false information that nine persons have already tested positive for the COVID-19 at Norvic Hospital.

“A staff at Norvic Hospital shared the information with me. This is not fake information. Of the total nine tested at the hospital, six have tested positive for the virus already,” Magar is heard saying in the audio clip.

According to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sailesh Thapa, spokesperson for Nepal Police, the audio clip was initially uploaded on an online portal named ‘Joley News’, before the clip was widely circulated in social media.

“Preliminary investigation has found that the portal is not registered at the Department of Information and Broadcasting,” said DIG Thapa, adding that the arrested is one of the admin of the portal. 

He further added that there might be other individuals involved with the online portal. Before arresting Magar, police had also contacted the hospitals named in the audio clip.

In the audio clip, accused Magar is also heard claiming that the government has been hiding coronavirus cases. “The virus is already an epidemic in Nepal. It is yet not clear how many people are infected with the virus. Even the media is hiding the information,” says Magar in the recorded audio clip, suggesting to his friend Himal to stay safe as almost five persons – have died after being infected with the virus.

During interrogation, the arrested said he produced the clip to increase the number of his viewers. Meanwhile, the Thapathali-based Norvic Hospital has already clarified that no suspects have tested positive for the coronavirus yet. Issuing a statement, the hospital said that the audio clip created panic amongst the public.

Nepal Police has already urged everyone not to spread fake news and information on social media on COVID-19.

According to police, anyone who is involved in such activities will face stringent action as per the existing law. “Those found to be involved in spreading false news and information shall be sent to prison for a year or fined Rs 10,000 or both,” reads a notice issued by police.

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