Criticise but do not slander, says minister

19 Mar 2019 / 19:36 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Anyone is allowed to criticise the government or the prime minister. But resorting to slander or getting personal with the nation’s leaders are out of bounds.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the current administration was against arresting anyone who criticised its leaders, including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said national leaders and politicians should be ready to accept unfavourable comments and even name-calling.

However, he cautioned that the freedom to criticise did not extend to slanderous remarks or words that could harm a person’s reputation.

“Saying anything that can hurt a person’s feelings, or cause disharmony and hatred, is an offence under the law,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Liew was responding to a question from Wong Shu Qi (PH-Kluang) who wanted to know if the government approved of the arrest of Sabah activist Jufazli Shi Ahmad on Saturday for criticising and insulting Mahathir.

Jufazli had, in an hour-long video posted on social media, accused Mahathir of various crimes, including corruption and abuse of power as well as colluding with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

The video has since received over 310,000 views, attracted more than 33,000 comments and was shared over 6,600 times.

Liew said uttering words with the intention to hurt the feelings of others or to cause disharmony and disunity were offences under Sections 298 and 298A of the Penal Code.

To a supplementary question from Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai), he said an order to stop all investigations under the Sedition Act 1948 had already been issued.

The police have been told not to use any provision under the Act against anyone arrested for making a seditious comment, he said.

“We are looking into abolishing the Act. It’s a work in progress. A final decision will be made in the near future,” he added.

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