Government Must Stop Attempts to Undermine Freedom of Expression

Press Statement: 6 September 2010

SUARAM condemns the recent crackdowns by the government which points to the continuing trend of intimidation to curb freedom of expression in the country.
SUARAM is appalled by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) recent charging of a blogger, Irwan Abdul Rahman, for a posting on his blog. The posting, a satire entitled “TNB to Sue WWF over Earth Hour”, earned Encik Irwan a charge under Section 233 (1) (a) of the MCMC Act 1998, for “improper use of network facilities […] by making […] any content that is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in characters with malicious intent”.

The MCMC’s charge is indeed frivolous as it has treated a satirical blog post intended to be humourous as one with “malicious intent”. However, even more worrying is that this case appears to be the latest of the numerous examples of the government’s attempts to shrink the public space for free expression and discussion, and to silence voices of dissent. Other recent crackdowns such as on prominent Chinese radio personality Jamaluddin Ibrahim, and Sarawak Tribune Editor, Paul Si point to a clear and continuing pattern of intimidation to curb freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Malaysia.

Further, SUARAM is concerned over Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s recently announced special task force, set up to monitor online postings that can cause “disunity and racial tension”, which could further strengthen the government’s control over the Internet. The setting up of this task force is also problematic as the record shows that the government’s enforcement of issues of racism has always been lopsided, with UMNO-linked personalities and organisations continuously allowed to make racist remarks freely and publicly without any repercussions or action by the authorities.

SUARAM calls upon the MCMC to drop its charge against Irwan Abdul Rahman immediately. SUARAM further urges the government to stop its intimidation and crackdown against those who exercise their fundamental right to free speech and expression.

Released by,
Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar
Coordinator