Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the written reply given by Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin in Parliament in which he claimed that the act of recording videos or the live broadcast of police officers during raids or arrests in public places is an offence.
In making this claim, the home minister is ignorant of the law or deliberately preventing scrutiny of any abuse of power or unlawful act by members of the police force. It is astounding that the home minister can make such a crass statement in this era of transparency and accountability.
This claim of the home minister has no legal basis in our law. There is no legal provision that criminalises recording police officers whether by camera or video or livestream in the course of their duty. Indeed, LFL knows of no such offence anywhere else in the democratic world.
On the contrary, recording public servants in their enforcement actions is a positive act as it helps prevent wrongful acts or abuse of power. To know that they are being watched is salutary for the integrity and performance of the public services, particularly the police force.
Recording or live-streaming also is not an obstruction of police officers doing their duty as defined in Section 186 of the Penal Code. The minister appears to have paid no attention to the actual wording of Section 186.
Did Hamzah seek the advice of the Attorney General’s Chambers on whether there is any basis in law to criminalise the recording of public servants in the course of their duty?
Neither does Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act encompass the act of recording the actions of police officers or sharing it online.
In short, it is sheer nonsense for Hamzah to rely upon these two laws in support of his misguided claim.
The scope of criminal culpability cannot be extended at the whims and fancies of the home minister.
In recent years, acts of police misconduct or brutality have been the centre of discussion globally, largely because of body-worn cameras as well as recordings of events from members of the public. This is the way it should be, as police officers should be put to the highest level of scrutiny to ensure that no misconduct or violence occurs in the execution of their duties.
If the raids or arrests are conducted in accordance with law and procedure, no police officer should fear being recorded. In fact, such recordings may serve to exonerate the police should a false complaint or claim be brought against them.
Furthermore, the fact that the government has already approved the use of body-worn cameras for the police emphasises the absurdity of Hamzah’s misguided statement.
LFL reminds the government that the police force is not above criticism. Police officers are public officers and, as such, are accountable to the public.
LFL urges the prime minister and cabinet to direct the home minister to publicly retract this unacceptable threat against the Malaysian public, in the interest of accountability and the maintenance of integrity and standards in the police force. – LFL
In the podcast below, BFM speaks to Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek to look at the legality surrounding this issue and what it means for transparency and accountability.
Produced by: Kelly Anissa
Presented by: Lee Chwi Lynn and Sharmilla Ganesan