Statement by Hon Kasthuri Patto; Freedom of speech does not mean you have a free pass to attack, insult or hurt other ethnicities or religions

Statement of Hon Kasthuri Patto in response to UMNO's Senator Khairul Azwan Harun on the move by the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia's initiative for the Communications and Multimedia Commission's through the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Media to encourage Malaysians to report inflammatory materials touching on race, religion and royalty in respect of freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech does not mean you have a free pass to attack, insult or hurt other ethnicities or religions.

Media statement by Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, International Secretary for Wanita DAP and member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights and Gender Equality Kasthuri Patto on Monday 19 August 2019.

UMNO Senator Khairul Azwan Harun is a true reflection of Barisan Nasional's decades of ignorance and defiance on the difference between freedom of speech versus inflammatory statements intended to stoke the flames of racism, patriarchy, misogyny and religious bigotry in Malaysia. 

I read with shock and disgust on UMNO senator Khairul Azwan Harun's response to the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia's initiative for the Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) to set up a hotline for complaints on inflammatory material on social media. 

He is a true reflection of UMNO's complacency in allowing for hate speech to grow like a cancer, so freely for over 6 decades and now is fearful that the policing of inflammatory materials intended to stoke the flames of racism, extremism and religious bigotry means that the right of freedom of speech will be infringed. He couldnt be further from the truth here.

If he is unsure of the difference between freedom of speech and producing and sharing inflammatory materials on social media, perhaps he and his fellow BN state assembly persons, Members of Parliament and Senators to enrol and attend a 101 lesson by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia and the Home Ministry on differentitating between what free speech is and what inflammatory, defamatory ones are.

Many of the current and former elected reps, men and women from the then Opposition and also members of CSOs have been victims, time and time again, of hateful, inflammatory and defamatory words, images and statements shared freely on social media apps like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others. Many of us have lodged police reports against these inflammatory hate speeches targeting us and our families and after thorough investigations, have emerged as either fake accounts or the person simply cannot be identified or traced. 

This couragous move by MCMC and through its Chairperson Alishasal Ishak encouraging Malaysians to report social media contents which contain offensive contents on race, religion and royalty, urging Malaysians not to retweet, share or author comments to offend other ethnic groups is highly commendable and will now set a standard on hate speech on social media.

Why is Khairul Azwan so uncomfortble with this advise? Does he think it is acceptable to insult other ethnicities, religion or royalty in Malaysia and that such provocative materials reflect free speech? 

Instead of crying bluff and playing the victim card, Senator Khairul Azwan and his BN counterparts should welcome this move by MCMC rather than standby and watch social media to be taken over by irrresponsible, hatemongers, and those who enjoy seeing the nation split along racial and religious lines. 

In 12 days, Malaysians will come together to celebrate our 62nd MERDEKA and I believe this effort and initiative by MCMC and the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia not to allow hate speech and inflammaory materials to take over the space on social media and to encourage Malaysians to focus on the glue that binds us together in order for us to coexist peacefully with one another, rather than focus on the differences we have between us must be something all Malaysians support and embrace for the greater good of our beloved Malaysia.

Selamat Hari Merdeka everyone! May the spirit of freedom of speech continue to flourish in full respect of the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and moral compass, with our integrties intact, in the enthusiasm of celebrating Merdeka, Sayangi Malaysiaku : Malaysia Bersih. 

Kasthuri Patto
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
International Secretary for Wanita DAP
Member of the ParLiamentary Special Select Committee on Human Rights and Gender Equality

Desi Hanara