Press Statement

MCMC must address data security instead of persecuting social media users

24 January 2018

Lawyers for Liberty are deeply concerned with the continuous misused of power by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in persecuting social media users, the latest being DAP MP Nga Kor Ming and Pakatan Harapan’s Terengganu Women’s Wing Treasurer Fatimah Lailati Omar.

For their alleged ‘offensive’ postings, MCMC raided Nga’s home, his service centre and even his parents’ home while Fatimah was arrested and remanded for two days.

The offending posts attributed to Nga that prompted this excessive response, unsurprisingly, involved comments that were directed at the government, and in the case of Fatimah, directed at Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

It is obvious MCMC have selectively applied section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), the ‘improper use of network facilities’ offence for the benefit of the government, by targeting dissident social media users, and all the more so if they are members of the opposition, as in the case of Nga and Fatimah.

In November last year, a factory worker was jailed for four months for merely posting a cartoon that was deemed ‘offensive’ to the Prime Minister, just the tip of the iceberg of the dozens of needless arrest and prosecution of social media users throughout the year.

A country that is constantly cracking down on dissent, stifling free speech and creating a culture of fear cannot in good conscience call itself a democracy. Malaysia is becoming more akin to totalitarian states like Turkey, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Thailand and Myanmar, where social media is heavily policed and dissidents are harshly dealt with.

While MCMC have been extremely efficient in persecuting social media users, they have proven to be hopelessly incompetent and ineffectual in addressing the biggest personal data breach in Malaysia’s history, 46.2 million mobile phone users (and from other websites), and more recently, 220,394 organ donors.

Questions surely must be asked regarding MCMC’s role in this massive data breaches and whether they have been sleeping on the job. What have MCMC done to ensure the personal data stored on public and commercial websites are secured? Did these websites and MCMC know about the breaches earlier but failed to inform the public or their customers?

It is prudent and necessary for MCMC to keep in mind why they were set up in the first place – to be the professional, impartial and competent regulatory body for the communications and multimedia industry – not as the cyberspace guardian of government leaders’ sensitivities.

The time, money and effort expended to arrest, investigate and prosecute people for frivolous ‘offensive’ remarks in social media is a waste of precious resources. These resources would certainly be better served if used to address real crimes and issues like fraud and data security in cyberspace which should be MCMC’s primary concern.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty