Current Affairs

Online policing is an attempt to silence Malaysians, say DAP MPs

Following the forming of the Police Cyber Investigation Response Centre (CIRC) to patrol and monitor social media sites, two DAP MPs have lambasted its ulterior motive of intimidating the public.

Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari and Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim said today that the establishment of such a unit will indirectly limit freedom of speech in this country.

“As it is, the Federal Government already has a firm grip on all mainstream media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television.

The DAP MPs criticised the purpose of the CIRC to mute the nation’s social media users who are free to express ideas and views without being suppressed by laws. Allowing the formation of such “online policing” unit would be akin to imposing oppressive laws in cyberspace, they said.

“For years, Malaysians have been suppressed by draconian laws such as the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Emergency Ordinance (EO),

“According to the 2013 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, Malaysia’s press freedom ranking languishes at a lowly 145th in the world, behind even Bangladesh (144th) and Cambodia (143rd),” they added.

Focus on crime instead of Facebook

Sim and Zairil pointed out that instead of setting up the CIRC, the police should be concentrating their efforts on dealing with the alarming crime rate, especially since the ratio of officers to cases is far from ideal.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) remains grossly undermanned and an investigating officer (IO) is forced to handle up to 19 cases a month on average, while an IO in a crime hot spot has to handle between 20 to 30 cases a month.

This is in stark comparison with the proposal in the  2005 Tun Dzaiddin Royal Commission of Inquiry report, which stated that each IO should ideally handle only five cases a month.

“The same report also stated that the CID required 21,300 officers as at 2004. This requirement was stated 10 years ago, and until today the department has not only failed to achieve that target, it still lacks about 11,300 personnel.

“It is clear that the police do not have enough officers to fight crime. Hence, is it not wiser for the police to channel their resources and attention towards strengthening the CID, instead of diverting focus towards chasing rumours on Facebook and Twitter?,” said the MPs of the impractical police initiative.

CIRC is politically motivated

The DAP MPs had also questioned whether the establishment of the CIRC is politically motivated.

“Based on the results of the 13th General Election, Barisan Nasional suffered great losses amongst segments of society that are well-connected to the social media, such as urbanites and young people.

“Thus, is the attempt to monitor the social media merely another way of intimidating Pakatan Rakyat supporters, as well as widening the government’s control over the spread of information?,” asked Sim and Zairil.

Utusan Malaysia’s article dated 21 March 2014, had reported that the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) would be establishing a special unit to monitor online activities of social media users. According to Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, the unit called the Cyber Investigation Response Centre (CIRC), will be parked under the Commercial Crimes Investigation Department (CCID).

However, as pointed out by the MP’s, online crimes are already being handled by the Cyber Crimes Unit in the PDRM, as well as other agencies such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

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