The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the arrest of two people in Macau for allegedly spreading unverified messages on WeChat following Typhoon Hato.
According to several reports from Macau media, two siblings aged 73 and 68 were arrested by the Macau Judiciary Police for spreading unverified information through WeChat, a Chinese-based communication platform. The police alleged that the pair had disseminated unverified information about the Macau Government blocking a carpark, in which five people were died. No media had reported on the incident, but police alleged that the pair sent the message to at least six WeChat groups and 30 individuals.
According to police, the mail had admitted to sending out the message, which was forwarded by his sister. However, his sister claimed she received the message from a third party.
According to section 181 of the Criminal Code of Macau, the maximum penalty will be jail for six months or a fine.
The IFJ said: “This is not the first incident in which the Macau Government arrested people for ‘spreading rumours’ through WeChat. However serious questions have been raised serious questions about the monitoring and surveillance of WeChat in Macau. According to section 181 of the Criminal Code of Macau, the authorities have to look at the intention of the person accused. Therefore the police need to prove the intent.”
We urge the Judiciary Police of Macau to immediately release the pair without any conditions, and in future respect the rights of the people of Macau to access to information.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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