Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Stop online censorship

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) are alarmed that six people have been charged for making comments about the Perak royal family.

The use of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) violates the Act’s stated promise that it would not be used to censor the internet. CIJ and Wami are also worried that this might be the start of a clampdown on online expression and the erosion of the right to discuss the role of the Malaysian royal families. 
The local media reported on 13 March that six people are being charged under section 233(1) of the CMA and section 34 of the Penal Code for “insulting” the Perak royalty. Section 233(1) is broadly worded to penalise the “improper use of facilities or network service, etc”. It carries a jail term of one year and a fine of up to RM50,000.

In Kuala Lumpur, a lab assistant, Azrin Mohd Zain, 33, has pleaded guilty and been fined RM10,000. The others from all over the country are claiming trial. 
CIJ and Wami are deeply concerned that a precedent has been set for online censorship using the same law that is said to protect the free flow of information online. It goes against Malaysia’s commitment of no internet censorship legislated in section 3(3) of the CMA and in the Multimedia Bill of Guarantees.

The violation of the promise is a sign that the government, at the brink of the impending change in prime-ministership, is getting more authoritarian. 
The charges against the six also come during an on-going political crisis in Perak and we question whether penalising public discussion on the fallibility of the monarchy is also the federal ruling party Barisan Nasional’s attempt to stop the discussion about its role in the political crisis.

We condemn the action against the six, and the reports that further action will be taken, as moves aimed at spreading fear and silencing the Malaysian public. 
CIJ and WAMI call for all charges to be dropped and for no further action to be taken against the online commentators. We call for freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution to be respected.

Gayathry Venkiteswaran 
Executive Director 
Centre for Independent Journalism

Wong Chin Huat 
Writers Alliance for Media Independence

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6 Responses to “Stop online censorship”

  1. tengku mohd faizal says:

    These two should instead focus on how independent journalism can create jobs for unemployed Malaysians, rather than harping on online censorship. In these times of hardship, please set your priorities right. I really don’t mind you two harping on online censorship when the economy is good, but now … please get yourself useful by giving ideas on how to create jobs to unemployed Malaysians, perhaps jobs in independent journalism. This a challenge for you two.

  2. Paul says:

    The relevant parties should bring a case against the government.

  3. Gayathry says:

    tengku mohd faizal: it’s not our responsibility to find jobs for people, you may want to direct your concerns to the relevant bodies like the unions, the employer’s federation and the Human Resources Ministry. You can also ask the government why it refuses to establish a retrenchment fund while you are at it.

    The lack of spaces for expression is a serious issue in Malaysia. Today, online censorship has affected these ordinary folks, who by the way, will be emotionally and financially hit because of the court case and fines they have to pay, or who knows, the jail sentence they may have to serve. Tomorrow, it could be you.

    We do what we do best and the rest do what they can. That is how civil society, the media and the public work together to keep the government in check and ensure that the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens are achieved.

  4. freedom says:

    To all lawyers, please fight for this this case.

  5. tengku mohd faizal says:

    “We do what we do best and the rest do what they can. That is how civil society, the media and the public work together to keep the government in check and ensure that the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens are achieved.”

    I believe that a lot unemployed people can help independent journalism to keep government in check and ensure that the political, economic, social and cultural rights of citizens are achieved. If you two are willing to give the employed the chance to be employed in independent journalism … help them to become an independent journalist, please set your priorities right.

  6. siew eng says:

    tmf, it is dangerous to stop “harping”. State abuses thrive when civil society stop shining the spotlight on them. What’s more, it’s during turbulent times, especially political and economic, that wrongdoing increases as those in power do their hook-or-crook best to maintain their hold or cover up their tracks. So it is all the more crucial to highlight wrongdoing and, in tandem with that, protect the right to free expression during these times.

    I really feel for the six (and more to come) who were after all exercising their fundamental right to expression. And if the Perak Sultan had allowed polls for Perak, he’d find out exactly how many people are as disgusted by the BN power grab, when it was clear that the people had voted for Pakatan (54%).

    FYI, CIJ is a five-person organisation and Wami is a mostly voluntary and two-person show whose mandates are to protect and promote free expression in our supposedly democratic society. So they are just doing their job here.

    Gayathry, apparently royalty are immune from prosecution –

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