Spreading False News via Social Media Punishable in Cameroon

False news being spread via social media is said to be punishable by law in Cameroon.

In several regions of Cameroon, MTN users received notification from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MINPOSTEL).

The notification via SMS stipulated that publishing and spreading of false news is punishable by the law and penal code.

Use of social media for dissemination of false news is included in the reprimand.

Any news today is easily spread throughout the world via social media and the internet.

In a book by Carlson Anyangwe entitled Criminal Law in Cameroon, Specific Offences the following is written:

“Section 240 puts on the accused the onus of proving the truthfulness of the news even though that is not necessarily a matter peculiarly within his knowledge. The accused has a good defence if he can show that the news is true or that thought it may not be true he nevertheless had good reason to believe it to be true. But otherwise, he must fail. It is however still incumbent on the prosecution to prove that there was publication of news tending to disturb the public peace.

Punishment: Publication of “false news” is punishable by imprisonment for from 1 to 5 years and a fine. This penalty is doubled for anonymous publication. The reason for the enhanced penalty is the perception that anonymity is the clearest proof of the mischief to the public peace that the publication is calculated to cause.”

The message received via SMS by MTN users read as follows:

“Dear subscriber, publishing as well as spreading false news, including on the social media, are punishable by the penal code and the law.”

Many Cameroonians are speculating that the alert came about because of information and knowledge on the Anglophone dispute in Southern Cameroon.

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