Jail for sharing rumours, hearsay

By Kabeer Yousuf

MUSCAT: Beware while forwarding messages and images from your friends next time! You are subject to cyber laws prevailing in the country. The Royal Oman Police (ROP) have warned propagators of such ‘harmful messages’ aimed at creating panic and confusion with “severe punishments”. “Spreading false news to people using cyber media is a serious offence and one can be punished for creating confusion among people”, a senior official at the ROP told the Observer.

Article 16 of the Cyber Crime Law based on the Royal Decree No 12/2011 stipulates that any person using Internet or cellphones that have cameras, for publishing news or trespassing into the private life of anybody, can be sent to jail for a period between one year and three years. This jail term is coupled with fine ranging from RO1,000 to RO5,000, according to the ROP. There have been messages on popular instant messaging network that there would be a major earthquake on April 27 or 28 and that it would hit the Gulf especially Oman. The cankerous message further says that there is a tsunami warning as well.

The Department of Earthquake Monitoring Centre (DEQMC) at the SQU has totally dismissed the authenticity of such a message calling it ‘baseless’ and ‘unfounded’. “The message being spread on the social network that there will be a major earthquake is baseless and not worth responding to. Nobody can predict an earthquake and also, the magnitude of 11 on Richter Scale is baseless. The physical strength of the earth cannot support it and it will break before it reaches the strength”, Dr Issa el Hussain, Director, DEQMC told the Observer.

The Sultanate of Oman had experienced three mild earthquakes on April 18, 19, and 20 at intensity ranging from 1.9, 1.3, and 2.54 respectively. The forth in the series of the latest earthquakes was felt off Salalah on Tuesday.

“Actually, we record a handful of such events in this area and we can expect more such ones but people should not spread canards especially at times of concern and the public should follow the official announcements from time to time than wasting time on forwarding baseless messages”, he said.

Omani Penal Law, promulgated in 1974 covers cybercrime in addition to conventional crime. More recent statutes, such as the e-Transaction Law and the Cybercrimes Combating Law, add further teeth to the country’s legal provisions against IT crimes and the Cyber Department at the ROP has all the more become stricter on such derogatory as well as confusing and defamatory messages.

A slightest second thought before clicking the ‘forward’ key can prevent confusion being created among the public while saving one’s own self from criminal proceedings.


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