PETALING JAYA: Rights groups have advised communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil to be more careful with his choice of words following a controversial statement which he made on social media on Monday.
During the livestreamed session, Fahmi had told participants to behave themselves, warning that they were being “monitored by authorities” and may be visited by the police.
Fahmi later claimed the statements were directed at netizens who were making provocative remarks about the 3Rs – race, religion and royalty – during the discussion.
National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president M Ramachelvam said Fahmi could have made his comments in a more appropriate manner, instead of speaking words which could be perceived as a threat.
“As the communications and digital minister, he should have used his position to answer the comments left by viewers rather than to say the authorities will come after them.
“Threats by government ministers against freedom of expression leave a negative perception of the unity government (which has a duty) to uphold this fundamental constitutional right guaranteed to citizens,” he told FMT.
Ramachelvam added that the issue was “ironic” since current federal ministers such as Fahmi used to be critical of others misusing laws such as the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to curtail freedom of expression.
Sevan Doraisamy of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) agreed with Ramachelvam and said Fahmi should be more cautious with his words to avoid being perceived as threatening dissenters or limiting their freedom of speech.
He also said discussions concerning 3R issues and government policies should not be unnecessarily restricted unless it incites violence or “lawless actions”.
“It is through these inclusive and constructive conversations (touching on sensitive topics) that societal progress is achieved.
“By actively safeguarding and promoting the principles of free speech, fostering open dialogue and facilitating the exchange of ideas, they can demonstrate their commitment to the democratic values and aspirations of rakyat Malaysia,” he said.
Defending his remarks, Fahmi said he was merely reminding viewers of his livestream event not to make provocative remarks on 3R issues.
The minister said he had observed that many users were making disparaging remarks each time he went live on TikTok, and had to remind them that the authorities might take action against them.