Free speech has limits in law, King reminds Malaysians

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, during the opening of the second session of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, during the opening of the second session of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — The Constitution allows free speech but the law must be applied to those who abuse such guarantees, especially on social media and provoke interracial and interreligious tensions, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

In his first address in the second session of the 14th Parliament, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said the government must take strict action against those who abuse freedom of expression and cause disharmony.

“On the influence of media, we would like to touch on the irresponsible use of social media that can threaten our values which is based on religion and society’s moral principles.

“Even though our government celebrates freedom of speech and being open-minded, it is important that this freedom is practiced according to the limits of the law and society’s norms.

“At the same time, enforcement agencies must take firm action on any social media postings that has gone against the law,” said Sultan Abdullah.

In his speech later, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo urged the public to be mindful when they post or share comments that are religiously or culturally sensitive.

Gobind applauded the King for reminding lawmakers on the importance of unity and racial harmony.

The minister also reminded news organisations of their responsibilities as publishers and to ensure the comments posted on their websites do not contain posts that could inflame racial or religious sensitivity.

“Racial, religious and royal issues must be monitored. If we let it be, it will become a big problem. So I ask for portals and those using social media to be careful. If you have a comments section in your portal, please be careful and make sure the comments won’t cause trouble.

“We must understand that the comments was published on our portal and we must take responsibility over it,” Gobind told reporters later when asked if the government would crack down on news websites publish comments from readers deemed sensitive.

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