The new communications minister must investigate MCMC’s past misdeeds and instruct it not to block any more websites until legislative amendments can be done

By Eric Paulsen

COMMENT

Lawyers for Liberty wishes to congratulate Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo on his appointment and further supports his announcement that the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 would be repealed as well as investigating the controversial block on Malaysiakini’s live election results site as well as the mysterious BOTS attack on election day.

Nevertheless, we urge the minister to not restrict the investigations into these two aspects alone, but to also focus on uncovering further wrongdoings on the part of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and ensuring the commission’s transparency and accountability to the Malaysian public.

We call upon the minister to investigate the October 2017 personal data breach expose of over 46 million mobile phone subscribers (in addition to other personal medical and employment records from Jobstreet.com and various medical associations) that were compromised and sold.

The now-infamous largest data breach in Malaysian history has been traced back to MCMC’s outsourcing of a phone-blocking system to the little-known company Neumera Sdn Bhd, and until today MCMC has not come clean on the scandal.

Further, we fully expect MCMC’s investigation and prosecution policies to be updated and revamped to prevent the widespread abuse of power that we saw under the previous BN administration when these powers were misused to clamp down on political opponents and dissidents online.

Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), which has been the basis for the many frivolous arrest and prosecution relating to social media comments must be amended as soon as possible to specify the scope of the offence.

In our view, the offence should only be limited to serious and well-defined online threats, harassment or bullying against a weaker party, an ordinary individual, and cannot be used by government leaders or officials against dissidents or political opponents as was the practice under the previous BN administration.

We are supportive of the recent move to unblock Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel, Medium and other websites and blogs that were previously blocked due to their critical content against the BN administration.

However, we are concerned that this power to block has been too easily abused and further, may be illegal since there is no legislative provision in the CMA empowering MCMC to do so.

We would therefore strongly urge the minister to instruct MCMC to not block any more websites until legislative amendments can be done, and clear guidelines put in place in order to better define the scope and powers of the MCMC when dealing with websites or contents that they view as illegal or prejudicial to public order or security.

We are fully supportive of the minister’s approach in refocusing MCMC’s role by improving and regulating Malaysia’s communications and multimedia industry instead of being misused as a political tool as was done under the previous BN administration.

Eric Paulsen is the executive director of Lawyers for Liberty

 

 

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