MCMC says proposed fine for Astro over ‘offensive’ Al Jazeera documentary on Altantuya murder as alternative to criminal charge

MCMC confirmed that it had on July 1 issued an offer to compound Measat Broadcast for breaching Section 211 of the CMA 1998. — Reuters pic
MCMC confirmed that it had on July 1 issued an offer to compound Measat Broadcast for breaching Section 211 of the CMA 1998. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — The operator of satellite television provider Astro was issued fines instead of being charged in court over the airing of news outlet Al Jazeera’s documentary regarding the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said today.

The MCMC today sought to clarify the events that led to Measat Broadcast Network Systems Sdn Bhd being issued a fine for the offence of allegedly airing “offensive” content, tracing the chronology as far back as five years ago.

The MCMC said a complaint about the airing of the Al Jazeera documentary titled Murder in Malaysia on Astro’s Channel 513 was investigated for allegedly being in breach of licencing conditions under Section 206(3) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 for the Content Applications Service Providers — Individual (CASP-I) category.

MCMC said the investigation paper was submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers on December 31, 2015, adding that the regulator was told to prosecute Measat Broadcast.

“MCMC was ordered on January 5, 2016 to prosecute Measat Broadcast Network Systems Sdn Bhd under Section 211 of the CMA 1998 with the offence of providing offensive content with intent to harass any persons,” the MCMC said in a statement today.

“On January 8, 2016, MCMC proposed to the Attorney General’s Chambers to reconsider the decision to prosecute, instead proposing that Measat Broadcast is compounded. That proposal was agreed on and MCMC was ordered to prepare consent to compound and to carry out further investigations to complete the investigation papers,” the MCMC added.

The MCMC explained that the briefings on the case to the deputy public prosecutor was carried out again on April 30, 2019 and June 4, 2020, noting that the Attorney General’s Chambers on June 23, 2020 then issued instructions for a compound to be issued.

MCMC confirmed that it had then on July 1 issued an offer to compound Measat Broadcast for breaching Section 211 of the CMA 1998.

“Measat Broadcast has the choice to accept the offer of compound, file an appeal or reject the offer of compound,” the MCMC said, without specifying the amount of the fine.

Under Section 211 of the CMA, it is an offence for any content applications service provider or anyone using such service to provide content which is “indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive” with the “intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person”.

If convicted under Section 211, the offence is punishable by a maximum RM50,000 fine or a maximum jail term of one year or both, with a further fine of RM1,000 for every day that the offence is continued after conviction.

Yesterday, news portal Malaysiakini reported that the MCMC had sent a notice on July 7 to Measat Broadcast, where the satellite television provider was told to pay a fine of RM4,000 for its 2015 airing of the documentary.

Malaysiakini reported that MCMC had fined Measat Broadcast RM1,000 for each time the show was aired, with the total fine coming up to RM4,000 and the company given 30 days to appeal against the compound.

The 2015 documentary about Altantuya’s death was titled Murder in Malaysia and was aired as part of Al Jazeera’s Asia Pacific current affairs programme, 101 East.

While the 2015 documentary had sought to link Altantuya’s 2006 murder to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the latter had denied the allegation.

Najib was prime minister from 2009 to 2018, and the Prime Minister’s Office had during his tenure issued a statement to deny that he had ever met or had any communication with Altantuya.


 

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