People who spread fake news about COVID-19 vaccinations should face criminal charges, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said last week, according to a TimesLIVE report. Briefing the National Council of Provinces on progress in the fight against the pandemic, Phaahla said disaster regulations contain a provision making disseminating fake news a criminal offence.
“Working with the Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs, the police and the NPA, we’re going to have to look at that,” he said. More than countering fake news, including “videos claiming everyone who is vaccinated will be dead in two years’ time”, said Phaahla, “we should be bringing in law enforcement to look at that”. The fact that much of the fake news was on video meant it would be easy to identify culprits, said the minister, adding the fake news campaign to discredit vaccinations was “very strong, orchestrated and organised”.
“In some cases, even health professionals are part of this,” he said. Phaahla acknowledged the Health Department’s response to fake news has been weak and dramatic improvement is needed.
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