The ten arrested for spreading rumours through email about bomb attacks
should be let off with a stern warning if they had no malicious intent to
create chaos and havoc
by Lim Kit Siang
Thursday): Police have said that it has
completed investigations into 10 people who had been arrested and released
on bail for allegedly spreading malicious rumours through e-mail about bomb
attacks in the Federal capital and that the investigation papers would be
forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers for further action.
The ten suspects were arrested in Penang (seven), Kuala Lumpur (two) and
Petaling Jaya (one).
Helping to spread rumours by indiscriminately forwarding emails about
pre-planned bombings in the Federal capital, including the Kuala Lumpur City
Centre, even if done innocently without any bad intention, is the height of
irresponsibility as it could create chaos and havoc in our plural society.
There can however be no justification for invoking the
detention-without-trial Internal Security Act (ISA) to deal with it as there
are adequate provisions under existing laws on irresponsible
rumour-mongering including on the Internet for such persons to be charged in
the courts of law.
It is important that the authorities make a clear distinction between those
who spread the rumours on the Internet with evil intent to create chaos and
havoc and those who irresponsibly but without malicious intent forwarded
To denounce and treat the latter as "traitors" is to debase and devalue the
term "treason", which will be the greatest disservice to the country by
giving the real traitors a sense of righteousness by blurring the
distinction between an ordinary offence and a heinous crime.
For this reason, the Attorney-General, Datuk Gani Patail should exercise the
discretion entrusted to him under the Constitution and let off the ten
arrested for spreading rumours through email about bomb attacks in the
Federal capital with a stern warning if they had no malicious intent -
serving as a grave warning not only to them but to all Malaysians about the
need to exercise special care in the information era in our plural society
when handling cyber-rumours.
The best weapon against rumours is instant and credible information, which
can be accepted by the people without any doubt.
Rumours have always been a fact of life in any society, but they can become
very serious in a society where official information channels have low
credibility as a result of prolonged information deficit.
With the advent of information technology and the Internet, the problem
created by rumours takes on new dimensions.
While those who use the Internet to spread malicious and wicked rumours to
destabilise society should be dealt with mercilessly, the authorities must
handle the problems brought about by information technology and Internet in
a "smart" manner.
By all means, the police should take action against those using the Internet
to create mischief and chaos in the Malaysian society - provided these
mischievous elements can be caught - but ordinary Malaysians who use the
Internet to try to verify disturbing "news", which may turn out to be
rumours, should not be treated like "criminals" - least of all as
"saboteurs" and "traitors".
Instead of a witch-hunt on the Internet, the Police and the authorities
should have an IT team which can immediately nip the rumours on the Internet
in the bud, by informing all netizens that rumours being spread are
completely without basis, not just by bare denials, but with facts which can
make such denials credible.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National