Anwar: Governments jump the gun by introducing laws to limit critical views

Lazareen Thaveethu Moses
PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim delivers his closing keynote address at the Malaysia Social Media Week Summit 2019 in Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre Kuala Lumpur April 25, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said that introducing laws specifically to control social media might not be the right move.

He said although hateful and violent incitements must be prevented on social media platforms, the perpetuation of violence in itself is not caused by social media but by the people and authorities for allowing the prevalence of violence to continue unabated.

“Governments tend to overreact by introducing laws to limit social media. I don’t think it’s the correct strategy,” said Anwar, who is PKR president, at the Malaysia Social Media Week (MSMW) 2019.

Citing major recent tragic incidents in the world such as the Christchurch mosque shootings, the terrorist acts of the Islamic State (IS) and the bombings in Sri Lanka, Anwar said the government and the people must not allow people to hijack religion or ideology.

“That means the role of the social media is not just for the government, or not those in authority to undertake that responsibility to express their freewill, free expression because critical consciousness is a necessity (for all),” added Anwar.

He also said Malaysians should feel free to utilise social media to call out flaws of arrogant political leaders, who make statements that go against the aspirations of the people.

“You have to continue your role to check those of us in the ruling parties or government. We don't want to listen to the same old statements of arrogance.

“You have all the freedom online to bang them as hard as you want,” he said, encouraging his audience to exercise their rights of expression online.

In his closing speech, Anwar stressed that although digital technology must have a pivotal role in Malaysia, it must not aggravate the problem of inequality in the country.

“In order to ensure the country moves forward, we must give a massive dosage of what this new technology is all about, otherwise, you’re only talking about the participation of the urban elite.

“We have grinding poverty in our midst, be it the rural bumiputera, pockets of Chinese in urban areas or the Indian estate workers. They must not be marginalized or denied access to this new technology,” he said.

The two-day event held at Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) was organised by Malaysia Social Media Chambers (SMC).

MSMW is a national event meant to connect people, content and conversations around emerging trends in social and mobile media.

*Editor's note: This story was edited for clarity following Anwar's remarks on Twitter.

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