Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is concerned with the arrest and detention of Patrick Teoh under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 by the Johor police contingent for allegedly insulting Johor’s crown prince.
Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) was not designed to criminalize online commentary, neither is it a criminal offence for anyone to post uncouth or offensive remarks online so long it does not threaten the safety and wellbeing of another person. The arrest and remand of any individual under Section 233 of CMA for allegedly insulting the royal institution is an abuse of the law as any investigation for such offence can be done remotely without the need for prolonged remand.
The Johor police contingent was notorious for abusing Section 233 of CMA in the recent years with mass arrests made for comments made on football, and a trend of requesting extensive remand period for a ‘crime’ that does not require the detention of the alleged perpetrator. Despite the change in leadership, Johor police contingent seems to be keen to continue the absurd trend where limited police resources are wasted on arresting and detaining individuals for online commentaries that do not threaten the safety and wellbeing of others.
In Zaid Ibrahim’s case under Section 233 of CMA where he allegedly insulted Najib Razak, the session court ruled that the prosecution must call on the victim and have the victim testify that they were affected by the accused’s statement. In this context, perhaps the Johor police contingent should verify the supposed victim of this case was genuinely affected by an offhand remark by a random individual online before expending limited police resources to arrest and detain a person for alleged offensive comments online during a pandemic.
SUARAM calls for the immediate release of Patrick Teoh and all other individuals detained for such offences and for the government to immediately review and restrict the flawed application of Section 233 of CMA by the Royal Malaysian Police.