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MCMC’s high-handed police report against writer has chilling effect on freedom of speech

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Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the action of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in lodging a police report against well-known writer Murray Hunter over his claims that the commission has become “politicised” under the current government.

It is unnecessary and high-handed for a public body to resort to lodging police reports for ‘defamation’ as if it were a private person. A public body, funded by taxpayers’ money, has no business to complain of defamation.

It must accept public criticism, even if it is harsh, as the body is made up of public servants. If any criticism is unfounded, it is open to it to respond and clarify. It is not open to it to file criminal complaints against legitimate criticism.

Further, it highly unfair for a member of the public to be faced with a police complaint from a major public body such as the MCMC. There is no equality of arms or equal playing field here. Can Murray Hunter expect a fair investigative process in these circumstances?

Freedom of speech and expression, protected under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution, is one of the pillars of our democracy. This right must be especially protected when the public voice dissent against or criticism of the government or public institutions.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil must take full responsibility for the actions of the MCMC in lodging police reports against the public over legitimate criticism.

His repeated denials that freedom of speech has been stifled under the current government ring hollow in light of this oppressive conduct of the MCMC, which is an institution under his own ministry.

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The government cannot keep claiming it is reformist when it keeps using the same authoritarian playbook and wields oppressive laws against critics.

Freedom of speech and expression will be rendered illusory and meaningless if the government takes criminal action against anyone criticising it or public bodies.

LFL urges the government to arrest this plunge into authoritarianism and uphold the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression. – LFL

Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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