GE15: Be mindful when campaigning – Content Forum

File photo of Malaysians casting their votes during a by election in Johor.
Content Forum Executive Director Mediha Mahmood.

CYBERJAYA, Oct 22 – The Communications and Multimedia Content Forum (Content Forum) has reminded politicians to “play nice” during the coming 15th General Election (GE15) campaigning period.

Malaysians are set to go to the polls this November 19. After much speculation and discord between the Opposition and the ruling party on the probability of setting the election during the year-end monsoon period, caretaker prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced the dissolution of Parliament on Oct 10, few days following the tabling of the 2023 Budget.

Citing the statutory requirement for political campaigns, its Executive Director Mediha Mahmood advised them to be mindful in their campaigning to ensure that their propaganda are both ethical and responsible.

Making false remarks as part of one’s campaign strategy is illegal, and violating the law is also inevitable if a propaganda campaign includes attacks, harassment, defamation or incitement of hate, she said.

These offences can be read in line with the Communications and Multimedia Content Code (the Content Code) as well as the Election Offences Act 1954 (the Act), which can be used against politicians guilty of breaching the statutory requirements.

Section 4A of the Act states that it is an offence for any person who before, during or after an election, “directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, does any act or makes any statement with a view or with a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will, discontent or hostility between persons of the same race or different races or of the same class or different classes of the population of Malaysia in order to induce any elector or voter to vote or refrain from voting at an election or to procure or endeavour to procure the election of any person.”

Similar provisions governing such acts are also included in the Content Code. Part 2, Section 5.1 prohibits menacing content including that which causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crime, or leads to public disorder while Section 5.2 of the same part prohibits hate propaganda.

With regards to false information, Part 2, Section 7.1 of the Content Code states that content which contains false material or incomplete information and is likely to mislead, must be avoided “When you misinform or outright lie to your constituents or play around with statistics to make things look better when it actually isn’t, this is equivalent to spreading misinformation and false news,” reiterated Mediha.

Mediha also called on people to fact-check the assertions of politicians thoroughly.

“However, politicians do occasionally genuinely misspeak or unintentionally give wrong facts, so
if you do call them out, maybe they would appreciate it too.”

Those who are slandered or defamed may also decide to exercise their right to take legal action, and hence politicians must be mindful of what they say.

With the growing popularity of social media platforms being used for political campaigning and
the increasing use of influencers to spread propaganda, Mediha highlighted the importance of
digital literacy among social media users as they need to understand the technical know-how of
the Internet to avoid falling for misinformation, and to report incidences that run foul of social
media rules.

“Politicians are subject to the same social media community guidelines, just like the rest of us
and you can exercise your right to report them for offensive posts,” she said, concerning
politicians who should be held to the same standards as regular users if they use discriminatory,
crude or harassing language.

The Content Forum is an independent self-regulatory industry body registered under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and designated by the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA’98) to oversee and promote self-regulation of content over the electronic networked medium.