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Salleh Said: No Such Thing As Absolute Freedom Of Speech

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PETALING JAYA: Freedom of speech and the expressing of one’s opinion must be treated as a privilege rather than an absolute right, says Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.

“And privileges, if abused, can sometimes be withdrawn. There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech,” the Communications and Multimedia Minister said in a blog post on Thursday.

Salleh said that even the West – where the limits of freedom have been pushed beyond “what we in the East can accept and consider as acceptable” – has laws that regulate matters concerning slander, defamation, degrading, racism, sexism, and more.

Advancement and learning is founded upon discourse, but the exchange of ideas and opinions has to be done in a constructive, civil, and mature manner and with decorum and decency.

“Running someone down or the hurling of insults would be the opposite to all this. You would be considered uncouth to not observe proper rules of engagement,” said Salleh.

He added that problems arise when people hide behind freedom of speech and pretend to seek discussion and debate, then disagree for the sake of disagreeing.

As politics is all about perception, the need to win the hearts and minds of the people intensifies as political disagreements escalate, he said.

“And this is when we adopt the Machiavellian doctrine of the end justifying the means by embarking on a campaign of lies and misinformation.

“We cannot claim the moral high ground and say that our cause is virtuous when we are neither noble or virtuous in our methods,” said Salleh.

He concurred with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s recent blog post, that people have a responsibility not to misuse the Internet as it is a shared property owned collectively by all global citizens.

“We must be able to differentiate between truths, half-truths, innuendoes, and lies and not regard everything as opinions that you are free to espouse,” said Salleh.

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