Keeping free speech separate from internet regulation

PETALING JAYA: A human rights campaigner has urged the government to form a task force of officials and concerned citizens for discussions on changes to the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Dobby Chew.

Dobby Chew of the Suaram group said the communications act was outdated, having been created in 1998 when the internet was still young.

He said Section 233 was too ambiguous and broad in making it a crime to disseminate information deemed offensive. Any amendment must balance the issue of cyberharassment and freedom of expression, he said.

Definitions of “offensive content” could be improved with illustrations provided as done in the Penal Code, he said.

Incitement of violence should not be dealt with through the act but through existing Penal Code provisions, he said. Defamatory statements could be resolved through civil action or criminal charges. “No need for CMA.”

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said this week that he will re-examine Section 223. The ministry would consider making amendments to certain parts, or new provisions brought in.

Chew said a law was still needed to regulate use of internet infrastructure, and he suggested that separate laws be enacted to regulate the industry, and to deal with cybercrime and cyber security threats.

The communications act should focus on industry regulation with other matters such as defamation or offensive material dealt with through the Penal Code, he said.

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