Azalina: Is Pakatan trying to mute critics on social media?

Azalina also questioned what powers MCMC have to assess comments it deems improper on social media and delete them. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Azalina also questioned what powers MCMC have to assess comments it deems improper on social media and delete them. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said today suggested that the government was attempting to silence social media users by enabling the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to delete their comments.

The former de facto law minister also asked what powers MCMC has to assess comments it deems improper on social media and delete them, pointing out that under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 devised during Barisan Nasional’s (BN) era, only the courts were empowered to do so.

“Recently, I was rather shocked when the Communications and Multimedia Minister (Gobind Singh) said that an Act will be formulated to nip the spreading of fake news,” she said when debating the King’s address in Dewan Rakyat.

“In fact, he said that the MCMC will be given full power to wipe out comments on social media.

“So, my question to the minister, is the government trying to shut people’s mouths? If really this is going to be done, how will MCMC, that is a government agency, be given power to decide whether a news is fake or not?”

She also cautioned of acts of biasness, expressing fear that the government would ultimately mute criticisms levelled at the administration.

Azalina then read out a US court ruling, which disallowed any government parties from wiping out social media comments on Facebook, as the social network site is deemed a public forum.

Earlier this month, Bernama quoted Gobind as saying that the government is looking to possibly authorise the MCMC to remove fake news and racist posts from social media.

He reportedly said that it was among the measures discussed in line with the government’s aim to enact laws addressing social media abuse.

Bernama reported Gobind as saying that the matter was still being discussed with stakeholders, and the new legislation is expected to be tabled in Parliament by July, latest.

The Dewan Negara had in September last year, created history when it rejected the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, which means that the Dewan Rakyat will have to retable the Bill with amendments.

When Pakatan Harapan (PH) came to power, it promised to amend or abolish several laws, including the Anti-Fake News Act.

The Bill to repeal the law was tabled on August 8 and it was passed by the lower house on August 16.

The Anti-Fake News Act was previously passed by the Dewan Rakyat on April 2 and gazetted to be a law on April 11, less than a month before the 14th general election.

*A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.