KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― The Malaysian Bar is set to discuss at its annual general meeting (AGM) a motion that calls for the repeal of provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 used to block news portal The Malaysian Insider (TMI) that has since closed down.
The motion proposed by Charles Hector Fernandez is dated March 10, before TMI ended its operations as of today. It also urged the government to restore access to other news websites and blogs that have been blocked.
“Therefore, it is hereby resolved that: That we, the Malaysian Bar calls for the repeal of section 263, section 233 and such vague provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998,” said the motion sighted by Malay Mail Online that is scheduled for the Malaysian Bar’s AGM this Saturday.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) blocked access to TMI last month under Section 263(2) of the CMA, citing the news portal’s alleged breach of Section 233 of the same law.
Section 233 of the CMA pertains to the improper use of network service or facilities, while Section 263(2) states that a licensee shall assist the MCMC in enforcing the law, including the preservation of national security.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak accused TMI of causing public “confusion” in an article quoting an unnamed source from a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panel.
The motion by Charles said Section 233(1) of the CMA, which prohibits communications that are “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”, was too vague and open to abuse.
“For example, the highlighting of violation of human rights or laws, or facts connected to alleged violations of rights/laws, would likely ‘annoy’ or even ‘harass’ the wrongdoer, and for the alleged wrongdoer, it could also be said to be ‘menacing and offensive’. This should never be considered an offence.
“As such, this section deters even the highlighting of human rights abuses, breaches of law and even possible government wrongdoing. This section even deters the sharing of such relevant and important facts, and/or opinions over the internet,” said the motion.
TMI owner The Edge Media Group closed the eight-year-old news portal after sustaining losses of some RM10 million since the acquisition in June 2014, saying it was unable to find suitable buyers and that the block of the news site had complicated sales negotiations.