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Don't pass MCMC Act amendments to stifle criticism, urges MP

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An opposition MP has urged the Dewan Rakyat not to pass the amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act which stifle criticism of government.

The new amendments will be another blow against the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression, said Padang Serai MP N Surendran.

"The amendments will have wide impact upon ordinary Malaysians, including bloggers and social media users on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc."

According to news report, Communications and Multimedia Deputy Minister Jailani Johari confirmed that amendments to the Act will include increased penalties from a fine of RM50,000 to RM500,000.

He also said the amendments will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat next month.

Surendran said in a statement today that in tandem with increasing public criticism of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, ominous warnings of 'strengthening' the Act have been heard since last year from ministers.

He said news portals, which have played a crucial role as an alternative source of independent news, were also expected to be affected, going by indications given by the relevant ministers.

"Contrary to what ministers are fond of saying, cracking down on the dissemination of information via the internet is not in the interest of the nation.

"Criticism of the government, its leaders or the ruling party is necessary and important in a democratic system of government.

"It's the best way to ensure that the government does not go wrong or abuse its powers or fail in its duties to the people," said the PKR lawmaker.

He said it would be disastrous for the country if people were to become afraid of criticising the authorities because of the threat of arrest or being charged with new-fangled criminal offences.

He recalled that at every session of the Dewan Rakyat since the 13th general election, some new laws were being passed which curtailed civil liberties and gave excessive powers to the authorities.

"This bodes ill for the nation. The usual response of the BN to criticism of these laws will be that freedom of expression is not absolute, and that the new laws are necessary to preserve peace and security.

"This is the same type of worn-out excuse given by authoritarian rulers throughout the world to justify passing and wielding oppressive laws."

“Under our (federal) constitution, there are limits to restrictions or encroachments to fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression,” said Surendran.

"Pursuant to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, any new laws passed by Parliament which render freedom of expression illusory will be unconstitutional.

"The effect of Article 8 is that restrictions upon fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression cannot be excessive, arbitrary or disproportionate."

He urged the Dewan Rakyat not to pass laws which drastically undermine freedom of expression and were clearly unconstitutional.

He reminded MPs from the ruling party that the people were watching, and that their votes would be permanently recorded in the Hansard.

"History and future generations of Malaysians will judge them harshly if they approve laws that undermine democracy and the rights of the people.

"When ministers bring in these amendments in the March session, they must not toe the line again, but stand up and speak for Malaysia."

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