Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the case of two high school students who were arrested for “ridiculing the SPM history paper” on a video that appeared on social media.
LFL is shocked and appalled that the police have taken a heavy-handed approach against schoolboys. The boys were subjected to a police raid in their home, arrest and a drug test. This would have caused extreme trauma to them and their family. And all this over a video where they vented their frustrations on their SPM history paper.
Even if there were unsavoury comments that were uttered, it does not warrant the intervention of the police force. It should have been a matter for the school authorities and parents to deal with.
They were just teenagers who were being childish and had already apologised for the video that they made, yet they were treated like hardened criminals.
The continued existence of Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), which is being used against the boys, is a bane to freedom of speech, and contrary to promises of reform by the Pakatan Harapan government. Members of the government should be well aware of how disproportionately wide Section 233 is in criminalising speech online, having been on the receiving end of it while they were in the opposition.
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The fact that PH now indiscriminately wields the weapon it once opposed vehemently, smacks of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution protects freedom of expression, which entails that people should feel protected from unwarranted and disproportionate criminal action taken on them for merely exercising their free speech. Though freedom of speech is not unfettered, the right is not something to be limited lightly.
Criticisms of the government should not be criminalised, and childish vents by teenagers even less so. Are we to subject every teenager to arrest and prosecution for simply ranting online? Is this what we have come to?
We strongly condemn the overzealous and arbitrary actions of the police in dealing with the arrest of the teenagers, and urge that all police action cease and the matter be handed to school authorities.
We also call upon Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil to explain the unprecedented use of Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA against schoolchildren. The education minister must also break her silence over schoolchildren being hauled up by police for posting silly videos.
We are deeply concerned that the actions of the police in this case will strike a chill into parents all across the country if left unaddressed and unrebuked.
Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty
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