Friday, May 24

Need to explain why action not taken against virtual citizens for wrongdoings – Gobind

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Gobind Singh Deo

KUALA LUMPUR: Any wrongdoings by netizens (virtual citizens) should be explained if the authorities do not take any action, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

He said this was because although the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had done its best to help the authorities in their investigations into wrongdoings by netizens, it had no power to arrest and take the offenders to court.

“We have to respond fast. Often, if not every time, we respond swiftly. But after that we see that no action is taken. So, I have informed the police. It is important for you to explain to the people.

“A situation should not arise where no action is taken even if there has been an improper upload. To me, if we want to create laws, they must be effective. If there are laws, we must be ready to use them.

“So, when a police report is lodged, we must act fast. The MCMC will do all it can but the power to arrest, power to make decisions, charge and so on, these are beyond my ministry. I think the people need to know this, why there is no action taken,” he said.

He told the media this in conjunction with the one-year anniversary of the new government administration under Pakatan Harapan at his office in Wisma Angkasapuri today.

Gobind was asked about the roles of agencies under his ministry, MCMC in facing various challenges in the past year in relation to social media and wrongdoings of netizens, such as insulting Prophet Muhammad SAW and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

He stressed that if there were constraints or inaction by the police and the Attorney-General’s Office, everyone should be informed of what was actually happening so that they would not assume that the MCMC was not doing anything.

“Whereas we have taken action, and even I am left waiting as to why it’s taking so long to act and what is the problem,” he said.

Asked how the ministry balanced calls to take action against alleged insults and concerns over attacks on freedom of speech or press, Gobind pointed out that the authorities had various provisions of law which were applicable, such as Section 233 of of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 which allows action to be taken if there is abuse of the social media.

He emphasised that although the Pakatan Harapan-led government was committed to press freedom, there were limits which were set up quite clearly in law.

“Of late, we see a great rise in cases where Internet is used for purposes which result in, if I may put it bluntly, abuse. We have insults, we have people who incite feelings of hatred, people who threaten others, people who openly abuse the royal institution. This is something we have to deal with.

“And where one commits an offence, then of course the law will take its course. We have seen how the abuse of social media can lead to huge consequences around the world. Not just in Malaysia. Other countries face similar challenges.

“Singapore, the UK (United Kingdom) and Australia are calling for more regulations and, of course, emphasising the need for there to be very, very careful consideration on how much freedom we want to give or we will support when it comes to media,” he added. – Bernama