COVID19: Cyprus mulls prosecution over fake news of child’s death

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Cyprus Police have completed their investigation into a fake news story on social media claiming that a 12-year-old had died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, the police said they had completed the case file following the arrests of four people charged with disseminating fake news and are awaiting further instructions from the Attorney General’s office.

The four people suspected of allegedly instigating the fake news story face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to €2,652 or both sentences combined if found guilty.

The suspects are three men aged between 32-55 and a 58-year-old woman.

Talking to the Cyprus News Agency, police communications officer Eleni Constantinou said the authorities swiftly acted once the cybercrime unit received the complaint.

“The police once more call on the public to be particularly cautious when it comes to such post on social media, and not to spread fake news without there being an official announcement from the authorities,” said Constantinou.

She said the police had launched an investigation into the origin of the post following a formal complaint by the chairman of the paediatric society Michalis Anastasiades on 19 August.

According to reports, the authorities believe one of the four suspects had uploaded the initial post on Facebook, and the three others had shared it on their accounts.

The post claimed that a 12-year-old child had died at the Limassol General Hospital after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, citing ‘inside sources’.

The Health Ministry swiftly denied the claim, saying no incidents of serious side-effects had been reported.

Limassol police also denied receiving such a report, while none of the state forensic examiners had been asked to look into a child’s death.