Recent developments have shown that the government will need to review the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA). Malaysians seem to have the impression that the Internet and social media is a lawless domain where anything goes and where there are no rules to follow. That is actually not so.
When the CMA was first enacted in 1998, the government did not envisage how popular the Internet would become and how rapid and widespread the usage of the social media would be. Today, the Internet and social media has become a necessary tool of everyday life that impacts not only the flow of information but finance and commerce as well.
It will not be surprising if in the not too distant future everything will be done entirely on the Internet, as what has happened in some countries where the only way to get things done is on the Internet. Some airlines, for example, insist that travellers use their Internet check-in facility so without the Internet you cannot even travel.
What is of concern is that the popular, and sometimes necessary, use of the Internet has also attracted various Internet crimes such as fraud, data theft, identity theft, and fabrication of false news and fake documents. In many countries this is considered a very serious crime that attracts long jail terms.
While Malaysia will uphold freedom of speech and the right to information, we must also protect Malaysians from libel and slander, plus character assassination. In no country in the world does freedom of speech include the freedom to lie and slander. National security and public order are also of concern and which can be jeopardised if there were no proper controls over what people do and say.
We must, therefore, review the CMA so that we can strike a balance between not stifling free speech and continuing with freedom of information while at the same time protecting Malaysians from criminal acts that appear to have become the trend of late.
We will, of course, obtain the opinion and feedback of those in the industry to ensure that a more holistic approach is achieved so that it meets the objective of all concerned. This is to assure the public that this move is not aimed at stifling free speech or at curtailing the freedom of information.