Causing public confusion is not and cannot be an offence under the Communication and Multimedia Act, the Malaysian Bar said today after The Malaysian Insider was blocked on this ground by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
President of the Malaysian Bar Steven Thiru said the MCMC’s reliance on Section 233 for its action against TMI was without any basis and oppressive.
He said the Bar was aghast at the decision to use Sections 233 and 263(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to deny public access to The Malaysian Insider indefinitely.
“It is quite puzzling that anyone could consider causing public confusion to be an offence at all.
“It is also rather demeaning and offensive to assume that Malaysians will be ‘confused’ merely as a result of contradictory statements in the press, or because the source of the statements was not disclosed,” he said in a statement today.
The Malaysian Insider was blocked from last Thursday evening. MCMC did not give any specific reason for the block or any prior notice to the news portal before blocking it.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak reportedly said TMI was blocked because one of its articles quoted a statement which contradicted official statements from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Salleh said the source of the statement was not mentioned and that could confuse the public. Steven said it appeared that MCMC acted against TMI because itI allegedly published matters which caused confusion.
“MCMC has not identified the offending publication by TMI which caused this purported confusion. MCMC cannot invoke Section 263(2) of the CMA for the purpose of barring public access to websites on unjustifiable grounds.
“As a responsible regulator, MCMC must always act in accordance with the law and must not arrogate to itself powers that have not been conferred on it by Parliament.
“The action taken by MCMC against TMI appears to be unsustainable in law.”
He said the recent and emerging pattern of MCMC’s reliance on the CMA to bar access to websites was alarming.
He said it was seen as harassment and intimidation of the media, and targeting of contrary or dissenting voices in the public sphere.
“In July 2015, the whistle-blower website, Sarawak Report, was blocked for allegedly publishing unverified information relating to the prime minister.
“Other websites, such as Medium, Outsyed the Box, Tabunginsider, Jinggo Photopages, Din Turtle, Asia Sentinel and Malaysia Chronicle, have also been blocked.
“The legality of MCMC’s action under the CMA in respect of these other websites also appears to be questionable.”