The rapid spread of disinformation on social media has prompted Saudi security authorities to funnel efforts into combating fake news which was initially promoted to spread panic.
The Riyadh police arrested a man for false news on COVID-19 measures. He claimed that authorities fixed a date for allowing prayers in mosques.
Within the same week, Al Qassim police arrested a citizen and referred him to Public Prosecution after he circulated rumors about authorities changing curfews.
Tabuk police also arrested another citizen who broadcast rumors and false information about a case of coronavirus being diagnosed in Umluj province.
Saudi lawyer Bayan Zahran told Asharq Al-Awsat that spreading rumors threatens to damage social peace.
“Article VI of the Information Crime Law stipulates the criminalization of this act (spreading rumors), and the penalty may reach five years in prison and a fine of 3 million riyals,” Zahran said.
Zahran stressed the necessity of dropping any unverified piece of information that might spread rumors.
The Saudi Public Prosecution has emphasized that receiving information from official sources is a moral obligation and the legal responsibility of citizens, and warned against spreading malicious rumors and anonymous news that raises fear about the coronavirus, in order to avoid strict criminal accountability.