Thursday 4 June, 2020

April Fool's jokes, pranks around COVID-19 are malicious, punishable

Press Secretary Roy Morris (second from right) (FILE)

Press Secretary Roy Morris (second from right) (FILE)

April Fool's Day pranks and jokes around COVID-19 are an absolute no.

Barbadians woke this morning to a hoax in the form of a fake Gazette on the State of Emergency on island, which purported that the country was advancing its plan to combat the novel coronavirus.

Taking to the airwaves around 10 am today (April 1), Press Secretary Roy Morris has dispelled this notion most emphatically.

Livid at the fact that someone could find such content to be anything besides harmful, Morris said:

"The document is absolutely, patently false!

"There is no such thing taking place. If there is or if there is to be, there will be official communication from the Prime Minister [Mia Mottley] or whoever else she designates."

Highlighting some of the false document's content that was of grave concern because it was stirring up much fear and panic, he went on to say:

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"What is really mischievous about it is that it goes on to say that there are certain districts that will be under police guard and residents cannot move around etc, and it identifies places like Deacons Farm [in St Michael] and Lodge Road in Christ Church, Cave Hill, Edge Cliff. The point I'm making here is this is absolutely not correct."

This adds to the battle that Barbados is already fighting to stem the flow of fake news and harmful messaging surrounding COVID-19. One media house was targeted previously and that post spoke to an elevated number of persons being COVID-positive beyond the country's national tally at the time.

Then a popular supermarket chain was attacked when a voice note was circulating saying that one of its employee's had tested positive. The Bridgetown Port Inc also had to dispel a rumour about its handling of cruise passengers.

Today, the government was the target by way of the document seeking to mimic The Official Gazette, a Statutory Instrument.

Morris asserted:

"This kind of maliciousness really cannot continue like this. People are doing immense damage to others and they are setting up others to create mischief, to literally ferment unrest.

"And I think I should make it known that if this person, the person who is responsible for this can be traced, the full extent of the law will be brought to bear on that person and Barbadians ought not to continue to circulate these things when they pop up. It is absolutely not true!"  

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