New law punishes spreading rumors through phones, social media in Mexico

The southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco's Congress approved a law to punish the dissemination of false alarms that provoke panic through phone calls or social networks, reported the newspaper Tabasco Hoy. The crime carries a possible sentence of up to six years in prison.

"Whoever utilizes telephone service or any other mass media outlet to create a false alarm or emergency, provoking the mobilization or presence of emergency services or security personnel, or provoking instances of social instability, will be sentenced to six to two years and 50 to 300 days," reads the new law 312 bis of the Tabasco Penal Code, reported the news website Animal Político.

The Congress approved the law Aug. 31, the same day a criminal court issued a detention order for the journalist María de Jesús Bravo Pagola and the Twitter user Gilberto Martínez Vera for provoking panic by spreading rumors over Twitter about attacks on schools and banks by the Los Zetas cartel in the eastern city of Xalapa, Veracruz. Both were detained and accused of committing sabotage and terrorism on Aug. 26.

Some interpretations of the law could curb freedom of expression, warned lawyers Sergio Antonio Reyes and Joel Alberto García González to the newspaper Excélsior.