Just last week, Malaysiakini political cartoonist Zunar was probed for sedition regarding his new book, ‘Komplot Penjarakan Anwar’. He was investigated under the “Classified Crime Section” involving three laws: Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), Penal Code and… the Sedition Act lor, what else? But really, this fella kena sedition, that fella also sedition, everything also sedition, so why post up another sedition story? Sien jor la.
This time it’s a lil different. This time, it concerns YOU, especially if you’ve bought something online (or signed up for anything online, actually…). Why, you ask? Well, get this.
Zunar, who sells his books online, uses MOLPay Sdn Bhd as his online payment gateway. You’d think that these sites would protect your personal details, right? Something something about not disclosing it to a third party and all? Well… When the police sent a letter to MOLPay to get the payment receipts of those who bought the ‘Komplot Penjarakan Anwar’ book, they handed the information over. And get this. Zunar told CILISOS that the police didn’t have a warrant to get these information from MOLPay.
Can MOLPay actually do this?
How did the police even get the details without a warrant? How could MOLPay give up sensitive information just like that? What about the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) which got all them sites issuing out notices about protecting our details? Don’t these sites make promises about not divulging details?
Now, as regular Malaysians we’ve all heard about the PDPA – it’s basically an act that regulates the processing of personal data in commercial transactions. (Check out this straightforward explanation by PWC here.) So, knowing that our personal deets are protected by law, how could MOLPay disclose them to the police without a warrant?
We reached out to Foong Cheng Leong, a lawyer from a boutique law firm in KL, who told us that the act has its limitation.
“The PDPA provide an exception to data users where they can divulge personal data of their users if personal data is required for investigation purposes.” – Foong Cheng Leong, lawyer
Bear in mind that Zunar’s book has never been ruled as seditious, so it’s actually NOT illegal for his customers to purchase it. And on that note, it’s also quite questionable as to why or how the cops went that far.
But what happens if it’s declared seditious?
“Upon conviction, a person may be liable to a fine for first offence not exceeding two thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months or to both,” Foong said.
And if you wanted to avoid such problems, Foong says that “there’s not much one can do other than to use foreign payment gateways or purchase the book anonymously, such as retail stores where no data is collected”.
It gives a lot of food for thought, ’cause this essentially questions the integrity of online payment gateways and just how easy data can be attained.
CILISOS reached out to MOLPay Sdn Bhd for clarification on what happened, but… And trust us, we hate saying this… MOLPay declined to comment. (Full disclosure: Our EIC Chak used to work with Ganesh, MOLPay Group CEO on a project for a few months)
We’ll be updating this piece as and when they do come back to us with a comment. We *do* want to hear both sides of the story.
I’ve made seditious comments online… Can PDRM come after me too?
“If the comments are seditious, yes, they may be investigated for sedition too,” Foong said. “An offence under the Sedition Act is a criminal offence. The law balances right to privacy and security of public order. It will depend on the facts of the case in deciding which prevails.”
But if the cops can get MOLPay to bend, to what extent can they go? Can they get Google and Facebook to bend for them too?
Foong assured us that these two are foreign companies, so the access of their data would be subject to the laws of their jurisdiction. “Companies like Google take privacy very seriously and they do not divulge personal data of their user easily,” he adds. “From January to June 2014, Malaysia Government made 15 request for Google user data but none of them were released. Information that they may get would be the name of billing details and address.”
P/S: As we snooped around the site, we got a bit sidetracked and found this function that lets you see the number of law-enforcement agency requests for info at Google and YouTube according to countries.
Be afraid… Be very afraid… (Or not)
So, back to the whole Zunar-buyer-MOLPay-PDRM thing.
Why do the cops even want these buyers’ details? Well, first off, Loyar Burok lawyer Fahri Azzat told us that there wasn’t even a need to get details on the customers on Zunar’s sedition case.
“I don’t think asking for the list of customers is within the ambit of investigation. It has nothing to do with a charge of sedition against Zunar.” – lawyer Fahri Azzat of Loyar Burok
So why then? In a recent Malaysiakini article, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen believes that the police could be attempting to intimidate or harass Zunar’s buyers. Here’s what he told Malaysiakini: “(It may be that) they want to intimidate or to harass MOLPay and its customers so that the company will not sell, and the people not buy, Zunar’s books.”
And you know what?
Zunar told CILISOS that although he can’t sell his book in retail stores, he could at least sell online. But as it turns out, with this whole issue about the police getting deets on his customers, Zunar’s sales has been affected. He even tells us that “people are really scared”. (P/S: Recently, 3 of Zunar’s assistants were detained for 5 hours for selling his books. After a few days, his webmaster was also summoned by the police to give statements.)
You know the drill la. No demand = no supply. Nobody daring enough to buy his books = nobody want to publish his things = no more powerpacked political cartoons to make you double think what you know = no more Zunar = suppressed right for freedom of speech and expression. Again.
Tactical or not? You be the judge.
P.S: if you’ve bought his book and it’s declared seditious, Foong says that customers can rely on the defence of ‘innocent receiver’ under Section 7 of the Sedition Act. Under this defence, you’ll need to show that the seditious publication was sent without knowledge or privity before surrendering the book to the authority.
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After Uihua’s article about Ops Lalang a.k.a. The Day Journalism Died in Malaysia, we had fellow journalists sharing their plights in reporting. We heard the same songs… Songs of the oppressed, songs of the fearful, songs of the furious.
In fact, we can safely say that 70% of CILISOS interviewees never want to go on record for quotes, especially when it comes to potentially-sensitive issues. Kinda sheds light on how bad the culture of fear in Malaysia has gotten.
As we end this piece, here’s an excerpt of Zunar’s statement after this incident-
“I would like to reiterate my stand that I have done nothing wrong. In fact, the rights of freedom of expression is guaranteed to all citizens under Article 10 of the Malaysian’s Federal Constitution. “Drawing Cartoon is not A Crime”.
I would like to give a clear message to the Malaysian government – if they think that by giving pressure to all my support chains will make me stop, they are wrong. The Fight Through Cartoon has just begun.
What am I fighting for? The answer is for a total reform and for a better Malaysia.
As a Malaysian citizen and a cartoonist, it is a moral duty for me to stand up and fight. How can I be neutral, even my pen has a Stand! Through my cartoons, I will expose more of their corruptions and wrong-doings.
I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink!” – Zunar’s statement on 23rd November 2014