Hafiz Yatim reports for Malaysiakini on the Facebook and Twitter activism session at the International Malaysian Law Conference 2012. This article was originally published here on 27 September 2012 and is reproduced.
A lawyer and blogger has dismissed the government’s notion that social media like Facebook and Twitter were a threat to national security.
In fact, Azhar Azizan or better known as Art Harun said it is merely a tool which facilitates or publicises something.
“Hence, I do not understand the government’s fear, where (Information, Communications and Culture Minister) Rais Yatim and the inspector-general of police (Ismail Omar) had said that Facebook and Twitter are a threat to national security,” he said.
“It is not Twitter or Facebook which caused the Arab Spring uprising. One forgets that the uprising in Tunisia was caused by the authorities taking action on a fruit seller because he did not have a permit,” he said.
The fruit seller, as reported, then decided to burn himself and this created the anger of the people, and soon word spread via Twitter and Facebook which led to the uprising.
It was (reported) in Utusan Malaysia last March that Public Order and Internal Security director Salleh Mat Rashid had said that police admitted that social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have made Malaysians more ‘liberal’ in their thinking to the extent that they are willing to commit acts that threaten national security.
Salleh had said that whatever happens in other countries will be followed and brought into Malaysia by those who are influenced by liberal thinking, such as the rallies and riots that took place in West Asia.
Azhar, who blogs at art-harun.blogspot.com, said this in a discussion called ‘Social Media: Guilty! For Updating Your Facebook and Tweeting’, during the International Law Conference organised by the Malaysian Bar.
He said that most of what is tweeted or were on Facebook cannot in anyway upset security.
He added that social activism is about putting right things which we think are not right.
Marina: Women slightly behind in using social media
Former Malaysia AIDS council president Marina Mahathir said the task of such social media is to connect people.
She acknowledged that the government is upping the risk by producing laws (which seem to regulate) the social media.
Marina agreed with Azhar that Facebook or Twitter did not start the revolution but they certainly facilitated it.
She said the messages may have been tweeted from overseas but the Egyptian people had been getting the news via the short messaging service from people inside Egypt.
“Social media becomes an eyewitness to things and people are putting down what they are seeing. For example Bersih, nobody could have administered the reality of it as it was going up on personal accounts of users (through Facebook and Twitter).
“That is all facilitated by social media. In the end it is how you use these social media,” she said.
Marina said being an activist, she noticed that many women who are involved in social activism are not using the social media.
Bon: Sec 42 requires lawyers to be involved in activism
Loyar buroker Edmund Bon said Section 42 of the Legal Professions Act, which states lawyers are supposed to uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour, makes it a requirement for lawyers to be activists.
He said parliament has enacted it and as lawyers the section should be considered as their Bible or Quran to be involved in activism.
“Lawyers may be in the middle or upper income group but it also mean that lawyers are supposed to help the poor, the public or comment on improper legislation. Lawyers must see themselves as being part of a bigger class to help highlight the abuses of the elite,” he said in the forum.
“It (the qualification) is not meant for lawyers to drive with a BMW as it comes with a reality of contributing back to society,” he said.
He agreed that social media may be seen to some as being a threat to corrupt administrative regime, but said, like the other panellists, that it is merely a tool.
Using the uproar over the Section 114A amendment to the Evidence Act as an example, Bon said what started as an active tweeting and Facebook campaign has required the authorities to respond.
He noted that despite the authorities’ response, the campaign against Section 114A will enter its second phase with the involvement of businesses.
“Despite having such laws, businesses should not shy away from providing their Wi-Fi services to the public as this will prevent people from gaining information,” said Bon.
There has been an uproar by Wi-Fi service providers as they can be held liable for posting offensive comments when the public use their services.
However, it was reported that the attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail had said that the amendment still holds the prosecution to be responsible in carrying out a comprehensive investigation before making charges. No charge could be made against anyone simply because the person’s name was linked to a published article.