Sharing photos and videos of Elmina crash victims online may land you up to 1-year jail, RM50k fine or both

17 August 2023 will forever be engraved as a grim day in Malaysian history after a Beechcraft 390 aircraft crashed at the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) in Elmina, Shah Alam. The tragedy claimed the lives of 10 Malaysians, with the whole nation reeling from the aftermath, mourning the loss.

Ever since the incident took place, photos and videos of the tragic crash have been dominating social media, most of which are from those near the vicinity when it happened. Unfortunately, the images and footage that went viral also include some that are extremely graphic, particularly of the two casualties on the ground following the crash’s impact.

Forwarded many times via social media and messaging platforms, these photos and videos are not only harrowing but sharing them is highly unethical and disrespectful to the victims’ families. Moreover, spreading such images and recordings are also against the law, with perpetrators facing stern action if convicted.

So, what can authorities do to curb the further spread of these graphic images and videos and what action can be taken against those who continue to share them? Well, join us as we break down the relevant laws on the matter below.

Removal of offensive posts from social media platforms

First off, the Malaysian Multimedia and Communications Commission (MCMC) can request social media operators such as Meta (owners of Facebook, Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp) and TikTok to take down or erase these images and videos from their platforms. To this end, Section 233(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 can be invoked, whereby the provision prohibits knowingly using a network service or applications service to provide obscene communication to a person for commercial purposes or permitting a network service or applications service under the person’s control to be used for that purpose. 

In lieu of the above, these graphic photos and videos are already expressly against these social media platforms’ community guidelines and should already be automatically removed by them. Should the social media platforms somehow miss out on their removal, MCMC can request them to immediately do so.

Up to 1-year jail or RM50,000 fine or both for those who share photos and videos of the Elmina crash victims

As for those who spread the images and footage of the victims, they are liable under Section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act below:

The provision clearly established that it is an offence to knowingly make or initiate the transmission by means of network facilities or applications (in this case, social media platforms), any communication which is obscene, indecent, menacing or offensive in character. In relation to that, the graphic images and videos of the Elmina crash victims can be considered an offence under this provision, with offenders facing potential punishments under Section 233(3) of the Act here:

Hence, if convicted, those who spread the photos and videos may face up to RM50,000 fine or up to 1 year of imprisonment or both. Furthermore, they may also be liable to a further fine of RM1,000 per day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

Accordingly, both MCMC and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) have warned the public from sharing photos or videos of the victims. In a statement, MCMC stressed that it is important for us to respect the sensitivity of the victims’ families as sharing the images or footage is not only disrespectful but also contravenes basic principles and ethics.

Let’s have some empathy and respectfully mourn the innocent lives lost on that fateful evening of 17 August. ADIL Legal would like to offer our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and hope that they are given the strength to get through this tragedy.

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