4 December 2015
MCMC is abusing its powers to safeguard the image of the authorities
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the recent spate of investigations and charges under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which makes it an offence to publish indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive materials to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person.
Many of these cases were brought against persons who had made internet or social media postings allegedly “offensive” to the Prime Minister or the administration of justice and had been used as an addition or alternative to the Sedition Act.
This is an abuse of the Communications and Multimedia Act as the general and widely worded offence under section 233 is meant to protect ordinary individuals from serious online bullying, harassment or threats – certainly not to protect the authorities from public criticisms, insults or other “offensive” postings.
Some recent examples of those investigated or charged are as follows:
i. Administrator behind LetakJawatan, a Facebook page demanding the Prime Minister to resign;
ii. Zaid Ibrahim for his blog posting urging Malaysians to support Dr. Mahathir’s campaign to remove the Prime Minister;
iii. PSM leader S. Arutchelvan for his Facebook posting criticising the judiciary following Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction by the Federal Court.
While it is true freedom of speech is not absolute and there are accepted limitations e.g. incitement to violence and hate speech – the threshold for freedom of speech however must be high. This is all the more true in the vast and borderless internet and social media age where anybody, in good faith or otherwise can comment on any issues.
We would like to remind the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) that such investigations would breach the ‘no-Internet-censorship’ policy which is enshrined in both the Communications and Multimedia Act and MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees.
It would be extremely irresponsible for the MCMC to keep investigating such postings when these are not real crimes but mere political or social postings, unlike internet fraud and scams which they should be focusing on.
Although the MCMC may deny, it is hard to dispute the poor public perception that the MCMC is being misused to safeguard the image of the authorities.
We call on the MCMC to go back to basics – to be a professional, impartial and competent regulatory body for the communications and multimedia industry rather than be concerned with frivolous matters like defamation, insult and annoyance against the authorities.
Lawyers for Liberty
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