Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is appalled by the recent arrest of Masyhur Abdullah and strongly condemns the rampant use of Section 233 of the 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act against authors of online postings perceived as offensive.
Recalling the arrest and detention of Khalid Ismath, Wan Fatul Johari, Muhamad Isyraf Shamsuddin and many others, there is a clear trend of the 1998 Act being used in an impulsive manner against those perceived to have intended to annoy or cause hurt online. The trend where the 1998 Act has been increasingly used against members of the public is worrying and has severe implications for freedom of expression in Malaysia.
Acknowledging the need to regulate online postings that can cause serious hurt or damage, Suaram finds the current use of the 1998 Act to be excessive, ill-justified and not meeting the necessary threshold for state sanction. The use of laws that curb freedom of expression must be stringently regulated and only used in the direst of circumstances.
As for the online postings of all those mentioned, none has shown any clear threat to security; neither does any have the capacity to cause any damage to those who were supposedly offended by the remarks made online.
The use of the 1998 Act in such a manner can only be described as excessive and must not be allowed to continue unabated.
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Suaram reiterates our stance that freedom of expression must be protected and practised as far as possible and can only be restricted in the direst of circumstances, as recognised by United Nations. Failure to adhere to this would be a clear violation of the rights enshrined in Article 10 of the federal constitution.
Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram.