KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — Freedom of speech has its limits and must be seen as a privilege that can be taken away if abused instead of an absolute right, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said today.
In his latest blog posting, the communications and multimedia minister lamented that many people were abusing the Internet and embarking on campaigns of “lies and misinformation” instead of using the online platform to exchange ideas and opinions in a civil manner.
“In this day and age, especially in the era of the borderless world due to the Internet, freedom of speech and the expressing of one’s opinion is almost taken for granted. What we sometimes forget, however, is that this must be treated as a privilege rather than an absolute right.
“And privileges, if abused, can sometimes be withdrawn,” Salleh Said said.
He pointed out that even Western countries have laws to regulate matters concerning “slander, defamation, degrading, racism, sexism, and so on.”
“A problem arises when we hide behind freedom of speech and pretend that we merely seek to discuss and debate and then we disagree for the sake of disagreeing.
“And this is when we adopt the Machiavellian doctrine of the end justifying the means by embarking on a campaign of lies and misinformation. We cannot claim the moral high ground and say that our cause is virtuous when we are neither noble or virtuous in our methods,” he added.
The minister said that Internet users should be considerate when they express their thoughts and views online as the online world is “community owned”.
Explaining, he said the same freedom to express opinion is shared by all Internet users.
“We must be able to differentiate between truths, half-truths, innuendoes, and lies and not regard everything as opinions that you are free to espouse,” Salleh Said said.
News portal The Malaysian Insider was blocked last week to a news report quoting an anonymous source on a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisery panel which contradicted official statements by the commission.
Salleh Said has maintained that his ministry has no problem with websites critical of the ruling government, and that action would only be taken against those who spread potentially confusing information.