The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia, condemns the arrest of an unidentified man who posted apparently insensitive comments on the deaths of two police officers.
Although the comments have not been made public, they have been labelled “offensive” in news reports and could apparently tarnish the image of the Malaysian police force.
The CIJ finds it alarming that our police force’s image is at such a low ebb that the social media comments of a 27-year-old could bring it into disrepute as is implied by such an arrest.
Rather than arresting the young man, we strongly suggest that the police force instead concentrate on building community relations and working to eradicate the root causes of this problem, rather than arresting individuals who are making comments, offensive or otherwise.
Further, the CIJ calls upon Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo to order a moratorium on arrests under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act. This section of the act is already under consideration for repeal and should not be used to clamp down on speech, offensive or otherwise.
We further urge that a genuine test of harm be applied when arrests are made. Did the social media comment, in and of itself, genuinely cause harm to the police force? While it is possible, even likely, that the comment offended grieving families, it is hard to believe that it caused any real harm to an institution such as the force itself.
We therefore strongly urge that the labourer be released without further charge and that police refrain from making arrests under this section of the act, instead respecting our constitutional right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 10.
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