Gobind: Not about curtailing free speech, but encouraging responsible use

Modified 12 Mar 2019, 5:16 am

Communication and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo has denied that the government is seeking to curtail civil liberties or freedom of speech.

He said his statement concerning sensitive comments in news portals is to enhance the responsible use of social media.

Gobind said he had received numerous complaints, particularly in relation to comments in news portals, and that various suggestions have been put forward on how to deal with them.

"I personally don't find anything wrong with people expressing concern over these matters. To me, these are genuine and pressing concerns, and there is a need to discuss and decide how to deal with it.

"The Pakatan Harapan government is committed to press freedom and freedom of expression. This is evidenced by the repeal of the anti-fake news law in the Dewan Rakyat in August 2018, although this bill was defeated later in the Senate," he added.

However, Gobind said such freedom should not be to the extent that it violates laws and causes social unrest.

"All freedom must be accompanied with responsible use of that freedom.

"This is why I said portals, which include news portals, must be responsible for what appears on their portals, including comments published," he explained.

Gobind said there is a need to exercise proper decorum when exchanging views online.

"It is in this context that I called for our news portals to self-regulate through moderating their news and the comments posted on their sites, and it is not meant to curtail civil liberties, but rather to maintain decorum and avoid expression which promotes inflammatory remarks which may impact on the security of our nation which we increasingly see today," he added.

Therefore, the minister said it is not unreasonable to ask portals to regulate the content in their comment sections.

Moving forward, Gobind said he is willing to discuss with the stakeholders, including those in the media industry, on developing a framework and mechanism to deal with the complaints received.

He added that recommendations would also be sought from the soon-to-be-formed media council on the matter.

Yesterday, Bernama quoted Gobind as considering holding news portal operators accountable for their readers' comments.

This drew flak from critics who claimed that the Harapan government is behaving like its predecessor.