‘New media used to spread lies’

(New Straits Times) – The opposition’s use of new media has enabled them to instigate sections of society to participate even in unlawful activities that give them political mileage.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said this was particularly damaging as many of the issues propagated through this media channel were untrue.

Citing the illegal July 9 Bersih rally as a case in point, he said this happened despite it being clear from the start that the rally was not about pushing for free and fair elections but for the interests of parties riding on Bersih’s name.

He said while the government had exhausted all its avenues to reach and explain to the people about the demonstration, it was not easy as the power hungry were willing to go the distance in pushing to attain power without going to elections.

Conceding that handling the run-up to the July 9 demonstration was difficult as the opposition had triumphed over the use of the new media, Hishammuddin said the ruling government must catch up on their use of the medium.

“I must admit that they are better than us and we need to get our act together in using the new media.”

“It couldn’t be clearer that there are quarters who would not hesitate to seize any opportunity and compromise everything for their narrow political ambitions.

“We knew that there may have been other groups that might have used Bersih as a platform to cause even more upheavals,” he said.

Touching on police action on the day the streets of Kuala Lumpur came to a stand-still, he said the police were very restrained on July 9, despite their standard operating procedure, which allowed them to take sterner action.

On the repercussions and lessons to be learned by those arrested and released by the police every time street demonstrations are held, he said those taken in by the police would have their particulars recorded in the police system.

He said while focus was given to those behind such events, the police were not going to pick and choose demonstrators in the middle of chaos.

“What we have in Malaysia, most people outside would look at it as something that we should cherish … Unfortunately, there are people in Malaysia, who do not appreciate what we have.

“They go the extra mile to get attention, but sometimes, when they do so, there may be a cost to it as seen in many cases. A democracy with a single racial composition will not have this problem, but in a multiracial country like ours, our leaders must be very careful.”

Hishammuddin said the police were also looking at best practices in the new social landscape.

This, he said included the amendments to the country’s preventive laws, the Police Acts, particularly on peaceful assemblies, as well as the use of biometrics in addressing the issues raised by the opposition on phantom voters.