FEBRUARY 20 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) respects the decision of the Federal Court which found that Malaysiakini was guilty of contempt of court over the readers’ comments relating to the judiciary posted on its site.
However, Suhakam is concerned that this decision could set a precedent that may have significant implications on the people’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of information in the country.
The freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 10 (1) of the Federal Constitution is not absolute and may be restricted by law in the interest of preserving national security, public order or morality and international relations.
Suhakam would like to point out that in today’s digital age where open discussion and comments are made public, portal owners should not be liable for comments made by the public on their portal.
In this regard, Suhakam stresses that the country’s legal framework should keep pace with the continuously evolving character of digital media which increasingly serves as a platform for discourse and expression on issues of public interest.
The media is an essential instrument that contributes towards greater awareness and protection of human rights through its reporting of the human rights situation in the country. In this regard, there should be an enabling environment for the media to work effectively to serve the public interest.
Any demands or measures undertaken to remove digital content should be based on validly enacted law, independent oversight and through necessary and proportionate means to achieve the legitimate aims mentioned above.
Equal access to information, assurances on press freedom and responsible journalism will demonstrate Malaysia’s commitment to promote and protect the people’s right to freedom of opinion and expression which includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
* Suhakam is the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.