NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced the enactment of emergency COVID-19 measures to criminalize “the deliberate creation of fake news”.
The Governor General signed a proclamation order declaring a public state of emergency on Tuesday.
The proclamation triggers emergency power regulations tabled in the House of Assembly.
As he announced the particulars of those measures during a press conference, the prime minister insisted that it is an “important and necessary provision”.
Minnis noted that a fake emergency order was leaked on social media just hours before the press conference.
“This was an intentional and malicious attack that could cause panic and harm,” he said.
“Just as we are fighting a virus that can cause harm we must address a contagion of fear and panic that can cause harm to others.
“I plead with Bahamians to play their role to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to the stop the spread of malicious and fake news.
“We all have a role to play in this.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global spread of a novel coronavirus, later named COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Officials confirmed two additional cases of the virus on Wednesday.
The emergency proclamation is expected to last for 14 days, but can be extended for up to six months with parliamentary decision.
Minnis yesterday insisted that freedom of speech remains with these regulations.
“What has been outlawed is the deliberate creation of lies and false information designed to cause harm to others,” he said.
“There has been a problem in The Bahamas with the creation and spread of malicious fake news for some time.
“We face a crisis not seen in the lifetime of most Bahamians. As a country, as a people of goodwill, we collectively cannot allow devious individuals to make this crisis worse and to harm others.”
The prime minister added that the crisis is developing daily and the government of The Bahamas will make adjustments as necessary in the best interest of the public health and safety of the country.