PETALING JAYA: Section 116C of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) must be reviewed to ensure citizens are not subjected to unnecessary and intrusive surveillance and interception of communication without due process, said the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).
It also called upon the authorities to criminalise illegal surveillance of communications and interceptions.
"As a public authority tasked with investigating corruption, it is certainly within the
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)'s mandate and duty to keep the public informed about its investigations.
"However, given the possible breaches of privacy in obtaining recordings, the MACC should have a clear procedural standards for the release of such material.
"Only communications that are relevant to an alleged serious offence should be retained and other information should be destroyed or returned," it said.
CIJ maintained that the MACC should not have played the entire recording of telephone conversations involving a former premier and other high-ranking officials.
The agency should have presented only the relevant information in a report or transcript to avoid unhealthy, sexist and intrusive speculation and comments regarding the former prime minister and his marriage, which were unrelated to the offences allegedly committed, CIJ said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 9).
It said MACC's shocking disclosure of the entire conversation reflected the need to establish guidelines to avoid a possible breach of privacy.
"Even if surveillance material was obtained legally and in line with international human rights standards, given the private nature of such information, authorities would still need guidelines on how and when such information should be disclosed to the public," it added.
The group said that MACC's move to disclose the entire conversation served to highlight the unacceptable and very low threshold under the existing CPC to authorise police to listen in on conversations and read messages.
CIJ urged MACC to disclose its existing internal systems and controls to ensure that the necessity and proportionality tests had been carried out prior to releasing the audio recordings.
CIJ also called upon MACC to reveal steps taken to guarantee the protection of whistleblowers, and to reassure Malaysians that surveillance information obtained by authorities would be handled responsibly, in keeping with international human rights standards.