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MCMC's denial a 'blatant lie', lawyer says prominent activist forced to surrender password

The lawyer disputes the internet authority's claim that Hishamuddin Rais is not under investigation.

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Police and MCMC officials going through activist Hishamuddin Rais's desktop computer during a raid on July 3, 2024. Photo: Facebook
Police and MCMC officials going through activist Hishamuddin Rais's desktop computer during a raid on July 3, 2024. Photo: Facebook

Hishamuddin Rais' lawyer has challenged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) claim that the prominent activist has never been investigated under an internet law that has often been used against online dissent.

Zaid Malek said police and MCMC officials not only searched his client's home, but also forced Hishamuddin to hand over his username and password to conduct a forensic analysis of his blog "Tukar Tiub".

"He was told in no uncertain terms that the authorities intended to seize his computer, utilising their powers under section 248 of the CMA to enter his house without a warrant," said Zaid, referring to the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Zaid called the MCMC's denial a "blatant lie" and said he was present throughout the time Hishamuddin was questioned over a blog post criticising Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

"I had the opportunity to see the police report that initiated the probe. The report made was specifically against Hisham’s blog, over a post uploaded on it.

"Throughout the course of investigation, the authorities only referred to the writing on Hisham’s blog and not the original post from the actual author’s blog," Zaid said.

Although MCMC officials were present during a raid at Hishamuddin's house, the commission said he was not the subject of investigation.

It said it had only co-operated with the police to take his statement, adding that the commission had also not seized Hishamuddin's computer.

Hishamuddin Rais.
Hishamuddin Rais.

Hishamuddin, 73, is best known for his years in exile after fleeing the country following student protests in the 1970s, and for playing a key role in the reformasi protests led by Anwar in the late 1990s.

His blog "Tukar Tiub" contains short commentaries in which he pokes fun at politicians and government policy.

Zaid said it was obvious throughout the questioning that his client was treated as a suspect in the investigation.

"All the questions directed to him were related to establishing elements of the offence under section 233(1)(a) of CMA against him.

"These questions included ownership of the blog, whether the post was uploaded by Hisham or whether he had verified or fact-checked the article before uploading it. From this line of questioning, any reasonable person can see that Hisham is the subject matter of the investigation. In short, Hisham was treated throughout as a suspect," he added.

The action against Hishamuddin is the latest in a series ofmeasures taken by Anwar's government to silence critics online.

Since coming to power, the authorities have blocked news websites and blogs through the MCMC and requested social media platforms to delete thousands of video clips and posts  critical of the fragile coalition government led by Anwar.

Zaid decribed MCMC's actions as "politically motivated", adding that it was forced to issue a denial due to public concern over the action against Hishamuddin.

"Enforcement bodies such as MCMC are funded by the Malaysian public. They are here to serve the public. They are not to act like a tool of those in power for now or to use their resources to protect the reputation of the PM or government politicians as is evident by their conduct in this matter," he said.