Minister Fahmi Fadzil’s order for an investigation by his own enforcement authorities to clear his own name is a blatant abuse of ministerial power
26 July 2023
We refer to the report that the Communications and Digital Minister, Fahmi Fadzil, has ordered for a report to be lodged to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission over a poster accusing him of instructing government-friendly parties to blame PAS for the cancellation of the Good Vibes Festival 2023.
It is a conflict and a clear abuse of ministerial power that a minister has ordered or set in motion an enforcement authority under his direct control for an investigation over alleged libellous poster made about himself. The ministry and its agencies are not there for Fahmi’s personal benefit, to utilise for his personal use. Further, since it is the minister himself who publicly initiates the matter, it puts undue pressure upon the enforcement agency and affects the fairness of the investigation. This should have been obvious to Fahmi.
The right to free speech is the bedrock of our democracy; protected under article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution. As a Minister, he is responsible to uphold it, and more importantly to check himself from using his powers to trample on this right. He cannot on a whim utilise the authorities under his jurisdiction to subject his political detractors to criminal investigations. Fahmi holds no special status to be free from criticism or to use government machineries to clear his own name.
If Fahmi is aggrieved by the alleged libellous poster, he is free to file a civil suit for defamation against those responsible, like other ordinary Malaysian citizens. Unlike Fahmi, ordinary Malaysians do not expect special treatment by enforcement bodies to defend their reputation. There is no legal basis to involve the enforcement authorities simply to clear allegations that was made against Fahmi specifically. Indeed there is a whiff of Stalinism about this kind of ministerial conduct.
We are disappointed that the PH-led government has displayed no qualms or hesitation in using the full might of the government machinery to hound its political opponents ever since it has taken power. This form of dictatorial style of governance was not what voters hoped to see when the PH-led government was formed.
We hereby urge Minister Fahmi Fadzil not to abuse his powers in this egregious manner and to withdraw his orders for the MCMC to investigate the allegations made against him in the poster, and file a civil suit instead if he so wishes. We also strongly urge all government leaders to refrain from using enforcement authorities against critics unless there is an actual threat of violence or injury. Enforcement bodies have no business bothering with ‘injuries’ to the “image” of the PH-led government. In all situations, the government’s image is not a justifiable reason for the limitation of free speech in any manner.
Lawyers for Liberty