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Are we now emulating North Korea?

If the PM feels that he has been defamed, he must file a civil suit like all other citizens.

Zaid Malek
2 minute read
Police and MCMC officials raiding Hishamuddin Rais' home on July 3, 2024. Photo: Facebook
Police and MCMC officials raiding Hishamuddin Rais' home on July 3, 2024. Photo: Facebook

Prominent civil rights activist, Hishamuddin Rais has been hauled up for investigation under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for writings on his blog that is critical of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

He was served a notice and was ordered to Brickfields police headquarters yesterday to have his statement recorded. 

During the course of investigation yesterday, his house was also subjected to a raid; around eight to 10 officers from police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) participated in the search of his house. 

This was clearly a strong-arm tactic to intimidate Hishamuddin.

The investigation against Hishamuddin is an outrage. Section 233 of the CMA is an oppressive, draconian law which Pakatan Harapan (PH) led by Anwar had promised to repeal. 

Instead, they are wielding Section 233 against a veteran and respected civil rights activist who once stood shoulder to shoulder with Anwar  and other PH leaders for a better Malaysia.

The investigation is a farce as it is clear that the writing Hishamuddin is being investigated for was not written by him, but is a republication of a writing by someone else.

Crucially, the writing that was the subject of the investigation were criticisms against the PM. Is it the law now that the PM cannot be criticised? 

It is appalling that this is happening under a "reformist" PM who once spoke reverently on the right to free speech. Yet, he now indiscriminately uses enforcement authorities against his critics, utilising the very laws that he once solemnly promised to repeal. 

Are we now emulating North Korea or China where the leader is above the rule of law?

If the PM feels that he has been defamed by said writing, he must file a civil suit like all other citizens.

He holds no special position under the law and he is not entitled to have his personal reputation protected by public funded enforcement authorities. 

It is a gross abuse of power and a waste of taxpayer’s money for enforcement authorities to be using resources to preserve the PM’s personal reputation.

The government cannot keep silent while the enforcement authorities act against government critics in this manner. If the government remains silent, then they are complicit in this.

The right thing for the government to do is to make a policy decision to suspend the usage of Section 233 pending repeal. Let Hishamuddin's persecution be the last under the notorious Section 233.

Zaid Malek is counsel for Hishamuddin Rais.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.