Media Statement – 24/5/2023
Malaysia Must Stop Pressuring Facebook and Telegram to Monitor or Control User’s Private Communication
Telegram and app owners must be strong and protect user’s privacy
Malaysia’s actions with Facebook, Telegrams, other App owners and service providers is raising concerns relating to our right to privacy, including our right of private communication. The government should not be ‘spying’ on people, and neither should the State be asking service providers or App owners to be monitoring our communications over the internet. Internet user’s privacy must always be respected, and many will just abandon apps where their private communication is being seen by others, including the State.
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) reiterated its call for the immediate repeal of section 233, 263, 252, 265 and other draconian provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA). What the Minister is trying to do must be by reason of this draconian Act.
. ‘…The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is strengthening its cooperation with Meta Platforms Inc (Meta) to curb Facebook activities that violate Malaysian laws, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said…’(Malay Mail, 22/5/2023).
Is there any other way other than invading the privacy of users and monitoring content of communication, that these service providers and app owners can do what Malaysia is asking them to do?
The Minister, from the Pakatan Harapan that were all for reforms and human rights before elections, must now clarify what Malaysia is getting Facebook and other service providers to do.
Protect the privacy of our private communications
The monitoring of any or all communications of all Malaysian users is totally unacceptable.
However, if an internet user makes a police report or a complaint to law enforcement of a crime, then the investigation of the complainant’s communication through which the alleged crime occurred, and maybe even the tracking the scammers, online gambling, pornography, etc may be permissible. But certainly, no ‘spying’ on the communications on everyone all the time or at any time, for whatever reasons and certainly NOT because Malaysia wants to PREVENT attempts or crime that yet to happen, which may or may not occur in the future.
There may be some support today in Malaysia if it was the monitoring of Ministers, politicians, political appointees and public officers to prevent corruption, power abuse and such crimes involving Malaysia’s monies. However, MADPET would also be against that.
Laws, disrespecting privacy, that enable continuing monitoring to prevent possible future crimes is unjust
Section 263(2) states, ‘(2) A licensee shall, upon written request by the Commission[Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission(MCMC)] or any other authority, assist the Commission or other authority as far as reasonably necessary in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law of Malaysia or otherwise in enforcing the laws of Malaysia, including, but not limited to, the protection of the public revenue and preservation of national security.’ A ‘.."licensee" means a person who either holds an individual licence, or undertakes activities which are subject to a class licence, granted under this Act;..’.
Investigation and action comes after crime committed
Action after a crime is committed is reasonable, but insisting actions to prevent a crime which MAY or may not happen though means continuing monitoring and actions by service providers or app owners is unacceptable.
Are these service providers and app owners also asked to suspend accounts on users because they believe there may be an attempt to commit a crime is also wrong. If the State has a justification to take action, they must act on their own after giving the alleged perpetrator the right to be heard and getting a Court order.
There have been experiences of Facebook accounts being temporarily suspended, but the user is at a loss as to whether it is the action of Facebook, or really the action of Malaysia that got Facebook or other apps/services to do so. There must be transparency on the part of the Malaysian government, and the government must remember the presumption of innocence until found guilty by a court of law. So, no to interference, monitoring, suspension or blocking of accounts of users of any apps used for private communication.
Facebook ‘buckled’ but not Telegram?
Whilst Facebook may have buckled to Malaysian government’s request, it is good to note that Telegram has not to date.
Minister of Communications and Multimedia Fahmi Fadzil said Telegram has been asked from the outset to tackle these matters “but has refused to do so up to now, so I asked MCMC to study the necessary actions”. He said MCMC was strengthening its co-operation with Facebook owner Meta to curb activities that violate Malaysian laws. (FMT,22/5/2023).
MADPET urges Facebook and other service providers that will monitor user’s communication to ensure Malaysian laws are not violated to openly disclose the fact to users, so users can make informed decision as to whether to use the app or service. Many want their communication to be private even from the prying eyes of the owner and service provider.
MADPET applauds Telegram, service providers and app owners that have stood strong against government pressure to ensure privacy of user and user’s communication is always protected.
MADPET urges the Malaysian government to stop ‘pressuring’ service providers and app owners to ensure that the users do not violate Malaysian laws. Stop making service providers and app owners liable for crimes committed by users whilst using these internet communication tools.
MADPET reiterates its call for the immediate repeal of the draconian provision in Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA). Enclosed is MADPET’s statement ‘Respect People’s Right to Privacy, Freedom of Expression - Repeal Section 233 and other rights violating provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA)’ dated 4/3/2023, which looks at some of these draconian provisions.
MADPET calls for the respect of privacy, and urges the government to impose a moratorium on the usage of these draconian provisions pending repeal.
For and on behalf of MADPET
Media Statement – 4/3/2023
Respect People’s Right to Privacy, Freedom of Expression - Repeal Section 233 and other rights violating provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA)
Suspect’s right to be informed and to be heard must be respected before online services are ‘blocked’ by State
The continued use of the draconian Section 233 Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA) by Malaysian government under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is appalling. News that the government will review this section is welcomed, but MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) calls for the repeal of Section 233 and all anti-human rights provisions in CMA.
Despite the long-standing call of the Malaysian Bar (also vide a Bar Resolution passed at the AGM in 2016 attended by over 1,000 lawyers), SUHAKAM (Malaysian Human Rights Commission), civil society groups and others for the repeal of this law, this PH-led government is still using this law.
The Bar in a statement December 2015 said, amongst others that ‘…Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA is a serious encroachment on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 10(1)(a) of our Federal Constitution. …Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA is also repugnant to the rule of law, as it is broad in scope, vague and ambiguous, with entirely subjective terms such as “offensive” and “annoy”. It can easily be misused to stifle speech and expression, to shut out contrary views, to quash dissent, to deny democratic space, and to suppress Malaysians. It is this imprecision that gives rise to the perception that the provision is yet another dressed–up political weapon in the armoury of the Government…’
Section 233 criminalizes the publication and dissemination online of communication that is ‘…obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person…’ It is just too broad and vague, and is 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. A criticism of a statement of a Minister or anyone that is in the wrong can also be alleged to be false, menacing, annoying or even harassment.
In 2022, the Centre for Independent Journalism documented 114 cases where Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act was used to investigate netizens and human rights defenders.
CMA has also infringed press freedom, and this also can violate people’s right to information. Two national newspapers are being investigated by police for publishing news reports insinuating that Chinese vernacular school students in the country are reluctant to learn Bahasa Malaysia. This maybe just an opinion of some, so why the investigation at all.
Blocking access without owner-user knowing – section 263
Another draconian provision is Section 263, whereby Section 263(2) states, ‘(2) A licensee shall, upon written request by the Commission[Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission(MCMC)] or any other authority, assist the Commission or other authority as far as reasonably necessary in preventing the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law of Malaysia or otherwise in enforcing the laws of Malaysia, including, but not limited to, the protection of the public revenue and preservation of national security.’ A ‘.."licensee" means a person who either holds an individual licence, or undertakes activities which are subject to a class licence, granted under this Act;..’.
This means access to your blog, website, Facebook, email, etc can be blocked by the licensee or service providers on the request of the MCMC, who simply have to send a written request.
What is worse is that you may not know WHY this happened, and who is responsible for this ‘censorship’ and deprivation of your right to communicate with others? Worse, this ‘censorship’, interference, blocking of access and even closure of account of your online facilities of communication can even happen before any alleged crime is committed. One may end up wrongly blaming service providers and social media applications, when the truth may be that it was the government that is responsible.
If blog/website or any social media facility access is to be blocked, the suspect of the alleged crime must be immediately informed by MCMC or the relevant authorities, and accorded the right to challenge that decision.
Note that all the police or MCMC can do is allege or suspect that a crime has been committed, for it is only the court, after a fair trial, that determines whether an offence has been committed or not. Hence, premature punishment by blocking access to internet facilities must end, as punishment ought to come after the court decides on the guilt.
Spying on us – Section 252, 265 …
How many people’s communication online are being intercepted and listened to using CMA? The people’s right to privacy must be respected and acknowledged.
Section 252 CMA ‘…. authorise the officer to intercept or to listen to any communication transmitted or received by any communications….’ . CMA says, "interception capability" means the capability of any network facilities or network service or applications service to intercept communications under section 265;
All that is needed now is the authorization of the Public Prosecutor, and MADPET believes that it is better that the requirement be a Court order made by a Judge, who will have to consider our right to privacy before allowing for any such ‘spying’.
Section 265(1) states, ‘The Minister may determine that a licensee or class of licensees shall implement the capability to allow authorised interception of communications…’
CMA needs a total review, and all draconian provisions that violates our human rights must be forthwith repealed
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) calls for the immediate repeal of section 233, 263, 252, 265 and other draconian provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998(CMA);
MADPET calls for an immediate stay in the usage of Section 233 and all draconian provisions of the CMA pending repeal;
MADPET calls for respect and acknowledgement of a persons right to privacy, and to insert this right in the Constitution or relevant laws;
MADPET calls for press freedom, and for the government to ‘end’ trying to scare or ‘control’ journalists and media outlets from reporting and/or delivering information, including critical opinions, to the Malaysian public.
Freedom of speech, expression and opinion must be respected. If there is some ‘fake’ or ‘misleading’ information online, the government should speedily correct or clarify rather than prosecuting the author and those who shared it online. The government must acknowledge the right of people to express opinions different from that of the government of the day, the police or MCMC.
For and on behalf of MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
MCMC has Telegram in crosshairs over porn, drugs
Communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil says people who conduct illicit activities using social media apps should be taken to task.
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is examining ways in which it can curb illicit activities on the Telegram social media app, communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil said today.
The minister referred to users sharing pornography, and trading in drugs and medicines not approved for use in Malaysia.
“All of these matters are worrisome as they are legal violations,” he said.
He said Telegram has been asked from the outset to tackle these matters “but has refused to do so up to now, so I asked MCMC to study the necessary actions”.
He said MCMC was strengthening its co-operation with Facebook owner Meta to curb activities that violate Malaysian laws.
Fahmi said commission officials met with Meta management last week and discussed controls for online gambling as well as scam advertisements.
He denied claims by Telegram account holder Edisi Siasat that the ministry had not taken any action at all. - FMT, 22/5/2023
Fahmi: MCMC working with Meta to curb Facebook activities that violate Malaysian laws
KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 — The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is strengthening its cooperation with Meta Platforms Inc (Meta) to curb Facebook activities that violate Malaysian laws, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said.
He added that the commission met with Meta management last week and discussed controls on Facebook relating to online gambling and ads of non-existent investments and scams.
“This issue is on Meta’s side, I have repeatedly brought it up to be resolved, so during this meeting, we have asked for further explanations on the online gambling and scam issues, and these are what we are focusing on currently.
“I hope our cooperation through MCMC and META will grow even closer in our efforts to curb any misuse of the platform,” he told reporters after attending the Malaysian National News Agency’s (Bernama) 56th Anniversary and Aidilfitri Open House celebration at Wisma Bernama here today, in the presence of Bernama chief executive officer (CEO) Roslan Ariffin and Bernama acting editor-in-chief Jamaluddin Muhammad.
Fahmi was refuting claims by Telegram account holder Edisi Siasat that his ministry had not taken any action against such activities on Facebook.
He also said they were studying how to take stern action against Telegram users who upload pornography and use the app to sell drugs and medicines unapproved by the Health Ministry.
“All of these matters are worrisome as they are legal violations, from the onset, the (Unity Government) administration has asked Telegram (to address) these issues but they have refused to do so till now, so I asked the MCMC to study the necessary actions,” he said.
Fahmi also took the time to congratulate Bernama on its 56th anniversary, saying that the agency played a vital role as a news agency in reporting news and historic national events.
“Congratulations Bernama... a prime mover in the Malaysian media industry, and as the organiser of the National Journalists Day (Hawana) 2023.
“Changes in the media industry due
to the development of social media need to be studied together and my
ministry and I stand ready to assist Bernama,” he added. — Bernama - Malay Mail, 22/5/2023