#NetMerdeka Media Statement: “Net freedom coalition condemns arrests under the CMA”

6 June 2016
Net freedom coalition condemns arrests under the CMA”

We, the coalition members of Net Merdeka, are greatly concerned with the recent string of arrests for alleged offences under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998. Between 25 and 31 May, individuals from different parts of the country have been arrested and subsequently ‘extradited’ to Johor for alleged offences that can be addressed without unnecessary detention.

Four football fans were taken in for questioning under the law, allegedly for criticising the owner of the Johor football club, the crown prince of the state, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim. They are Masyhur Abdullah, 29, Arrasyiddin Mohamad, 23, Muhd Salman Zakaria, 30, and a Facebooker with the name ‘Minah Pendek’; the latter arrested while on a fishing boat out on sea.

The police have unnecessarily applied for extensive and in some cases, further remand, as investigations should be conducted diligently and completed within 24 hours. Remand should also not be used as a form of punishment and with the seizure of the electronic devices allegedly used by the suspects, there is no longer any reason to detain the person once the formalities of arrest and statement taking are completed.

Graphic artist and activist, Fahmi Reza, claimed trial to a charge under Section 233 today for the clown posters depicting prime minister Najib Abdul Razak that have been widely shared online. He is expected to face another similar charge later this week. Since January this year, 13 others have been investigated or arrested under this law for online expression.

Recalling the wide ambit of Section 233 and the ill-defined scope for offences it prescribes, this section can only be described as an unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of expression based on recognized international standards. Like other laws that impinge on freedom of expression, the state employs double standards and selective persecution in using the CMA.

The coalition believes that irrespective of whether the behaviour expressed by these individuals can be considered as rude or disrespectful, a mature society should and can address ‘hurtful’ online comments without resorting to the punitive measures employed by the authorities. With these factors in mind, the recent string of arrests can only be described as a campaign to intimidate the public and a clampdown on the freedom of expression.

The coalition seeks to remind the Government of Malaysia of its obligations to protect and promote freedom of expression and safeguard human rights in the digital sphere. As such, the coalition calls for enforcements agencies to put an end to the series of arrests and prosecutions for offences under CMA and calls for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to engage with all stakeholders to review any and all proposed amendments to the CMA to ensure that they conform to international human rights and best practices.

Net Merdeka coalition members:

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Malaysia, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), National Human Rights Society (HAKAM), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Sinar Project, Cilisos, Amnesty International, Malaysia, Lawyers for Liberty, Pusat Komas


For more information, please contact Yasmin Masidi, Programme Manager, EMPOWER at [email protected] / Jac Kee, Director, CIJ at [email protected].

For inquiries about the arrests, please contact Amir Abd Hadi, project coordinator, SUARAM at email [email protected]

Website: netmerdeka.org | Twitter hashtag: #NetMerdeka

Unbridled use of CMA violates Article 10 of Federal Constitution

For Immediate Release
27 May 2016

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is appalled by the recent arrest of Masyhur Abdullah and strongly condemn the rampant use of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) against authors of online postings perceived as offensive.

Recalling the arrest and detention of Khalid Ismath, Wan Fatul Johari, Muhamad Isyraf Shamsuddin and many others, there is a clear trend of CMA being used in an impulsive manner against those perceived to have intended to annoy or cause hurt online. The trend where CMA has been increasingly used against members of publics is worrying and carries severe implication to freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Acknowledging the need to regulate online postings that can cause serious hurt or damage, SUARAM finds the current use of CMA to be excessive, ill-justified and does not meet the necessary threshold for state sanction. The use of laws that curbs freedom of expression must be stringently regulated and only used in the direst of circumstances. Of all of those mentioned, none of their online postings have shown any clear threat to security and does not have the capacity to cause any damage to those that was supposedly offended by the remarks made online.

The use of CMA in such a manner can only be described as excessive and must not be allowed to continue unabated. SUARAM reiterate our stance that freedom of expression must be protected and practiced so far as possible and can only be restricted in the direst of circumstances as recognized by United Nations. Failure to adhere to this would be a clear violation of the rights enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

In Solidarity,
Sevan Doraisamy
Executive Director

Media must be independent and free from threats of repressive security laws

For Immediate Release
27 February 2016

Media must be independent and free from threats of repressive security laws
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) strongly condemn the blocking of news media website, the Malaysian Insider and the investigation of editors and officers of the Malaysian Insiders under security law.

The blocking of any website should only be permitted under the direst of circumstances and must only take place after thorough and transparent investigation by relevant authorities. The swiftness in which the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) took action and blocked the Malaysian Insider website implies that MCMC did not conduct any investigation into the matter and made an arbitrary decision to block the Malaysian Insider.

Further, considering the importance of independent media and news reports, editors and officers of any news or media group should not be subjected to investigation under security laws for the publication of news articles. The use of Section 124(I) of the Penal Code should not and must not be interpreted and used as a law to supress the media. The invocation of Section 124(I) in this context can only be seen as a blatant act of intimidation and a direct threat against media and news groups with detention without trial.

If any of the allegations reported by the Malaysian Insider is false as alleged by MCMC, the party taking actions against the Malaysian Insider should be by the aggrieved parties and not the Government of Malaysia. On this note, SUARAM calls for the unblocking of the Malaysian Insider and demand that investigations under Section 124(I) be stopped immediately!
Considering the standing of Malaysia as a member of the United Nations Security Council and the upcoming Human Rights Council sitting in which Malaysia would undoubtedly be under scrutiny, the Government of Malaysia must take proactive steps to fulfil its international obligations and maintain a positive image in the international community. The blocking of the Malaysian Insider and the investigations against its editors and officers would result in a failure by the Government of Malaysia in fulfilling the recommendations adopted by the Government of Malaysia in the Universal Periodic Review and undermine Malaysia’s standing and image in the international community.

In Solidarity

Executive Director