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Blogger Alai charged for publishing ‘alarming’ claims on coronavirus

Blogger Robert Alai was on Monday released on a cash bond of Sh150,000 after spending the weekend in police cells.

Alai was arrested for publishing news said to be false regarding the situation of the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The blogger was was charged with the publication of false information in violation of Section 23 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act.

He appeared before Magistrate Muema Ndungi, who conducted the hearing at the Milimani law court parking lot due to measures being taken to combat the deadly coronavirus.

Alai found himself in trouble with the law yet again for posting an alarming tweet claiming that the government was hiding information about coronavirus related deaths in Mombasa.

He is accused of contravening the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act of 2018, which prohibits publication of unverified information. Such offenders face stiff fines or jail terms if found guilty.

Section 22 (1) of the law states: “A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with the intent that the data shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.”

The magistrate ordered Alai, on his release, to desist from sharing any coronavirus related information on his social media handles or he risks being re-arrested and his bond terms cancelled.

On Thursday, Health CS Mutahi Kangwe warned that the government will start arresting those spreading fake news about the viral disease as the country grapples with 15 Covid-19 cases.

“I want to appeal to members of public to desist from any form of misinformation. The social media has been awash with all sort of rumours including that we are locking down Nairobi, sending people home, that we have deployed the military …. things that have come from nowhere. These rumours must stop,” Kagwe warned.

As of Monday, the global Covid-19 cases had increased to 339,059 as deaths rose to 14,700 in 192 countries, Kenya has so far reported 15 cases, with fears rife the numbers could rise drastically in the next few days.