Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today took Hamzah Zainudin to task for calling it an offence to record or livestream the police during raids or arrests, saying the home minister has no legal basis for his claim.
Hamzah, in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, had said that those who film an arrest or raid could face action under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public officer or disrupting investigations.
He also said that sharing such incidents was a violation of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) on disturbing others.
But LFL director Zaid Malek said there were no legal provisions criminalising the act of recording police officers in the course of their duty, whether by camera, video or livestream.
"Indeed, we know of no such offence anywhere else in the democratic world," he said.
"On the contrary, recording public servants in their enforcement actions is a positive act as it helps prevent wrongful acts or abuse of power.
"To know that they are being watched is salutary for the integrity and performance of the public services, particularly the police force."
Zaid also questioned if Hamzah had sought advice from the Attorney-General's Chambers on the matter, calling it "sheer nonsense" for the minister to rely on the Penal Code and CMA to support his claim.
"Recording or live-streaming is not an obstruction of police officers doing their duty as defined in Section 186 of the Penal Code," he said.
"Neither does Section 233 of the CMA encompass the act of recording the actions of police officers or sharing it online."
In fact, he said, the government itself had approved the use of body cameras for the police, a fact that emphasised "the absurdity of Hamzah's misguided statement".
"In making this claim, the home minister is either ignorant of the law or deliberately preventing the scrutiny of any abuse of power or unlawful act by members of the police force," he added.
"It is astounding that the home minister can make such a crass statement in this era of transparency and accountability."
If raids or arrests are conducted in accordance with the law, Zaid said, no police officer should fear being recorded.
"In fact, such recordings may serve to exonerate the police should a false complaint or claim be brought against them," he said.
He urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to direct Hamzah to publicly retract what he described as an "unacceptable threat" to the Malaysian public, adding that the police are public officers and as such, accountable to the people.
"The scope of criminal culpability cannot be extended at the whims and fancies of the home minister," he said.