Home Content Forum Education “Death By Cyberbullying Is Almost Equivalent To Manslaughter”, Say Winners Of WSPD Exhibition Debate
Home Content Forum Education “Death By Cyberbullying Is Almost Equivalent To Manslaughter”, Say Winners Of WSPD Exhibition Debate

“Death By Cyberbullying Is Almost Equivalent To Manslaughter”, Say Winners Of WSPD Exhibition Debate

Harassing others online while hiding behind the screen is a grave offence committed by cyberbullies who should face the repercussions of their actions

An exhibition debate organised by the Content Forum and UKM

An exhibition debate organised by the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (Content Forum) and University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was recently held at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM) in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), observed on September 10 every year.

The dialogue was co-hosted by the Psychiatry Department, Faculty of Medicine at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM), UKM, and the Content Forum, in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), the UKM English Debate Team, Zero Suicide Sarawak, and several lived experience NGOs in Malaysia.

Fareez Zahir at the podium, acting as Prime Minister for the Government’s side

The event was timely, as cyberbullying is an epidemic that continues to rage on in our society. According to a United Nations Children’s Fund report, Malaysia ranked second in Asia for cyberbullying among youths in 2020, where three out of 10 young Malaysians have fallen victim to cyberbullying[1] .

With the motion ‘This House Would Hold Cyberbullies Accountable for the Suicide of their Targets’, the debate sought to increase public awareness of suicide prevention advocacy, particularly the impact and consequences of cyberbullying on mental health and overall well-being.

Fareez Zahir, former international debater and IIUM alumnus who acted as Prime Minister on the Government side of the debate, said, “We don’t think that cyberbullying is something that should be taken lightly. We believe that the law should protect victims of cyberbullying and that bullies should be punished to the full extent of the law.

“It is pernicious and has been going on for far too long for the Government to turn a blind eye and sweep it under the rug. Cyberbullying that leads to suicide is almost equivalent to manslaughter.

“Although bullies may not have the direct intention of murder, the acts of targeted, persistent, and pernicious bullying potentially lead towards the death of an individual,” he said.

Fareez added that there are anti-trafficking, anti-sexual harassment, and child protection laws, but there are no laws to protect people suffering from mental health issues like depression.

“Why is there a gap between mental health and bodily harm? I believe it is the government’s role to enact laws to protect such individuals and punish cyberbullies,” he stated while proposing that the perpetrators should face imprisonment if found guilty.

Suresh Gnasegarah, acting as leader of the Opposition team, at the podium

The Opposition, represented by its leader, Suresh Gnasegarah, also a former international debater and an MMU alumnus, refuted their argument and highlighted that the Government side could refine its approach to combat the issue.

“The Government wants to take a retribution-based, punitive approach on perpetrators, which will not move the needle as it targets the wrong subset of society. We believe that cyberbullying is an issue that involves our society at large, and targeted measures as proposed by the Government will only cause more harm than good,” he said.

(L-R) Jivan Rajendra Kumar, Audrey Teoh, and Fareez Zahir from the team acting as Government

He further elaborated that, in most cases, cyberbullying involves waves of comments from many individuals targeting the victim, which is why the legislation proposed by the Government cannot stand.

“The cause of suicide cannot be boiled down to one single factor. It is more than just one person’s comment or harassment; it is a multitude of factors contributing to the act of suicide, like the environment and societal values that the person was raised in, their mental vulnerability, peer pressure, and so on,” he added.

After an eye-opening debate session, the Government team emerged victorious, bringing home the grand prize worth RM2,000 awarded by the Content Forum. Their winnings will be donated to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO). The prize money worth RM1,000 awarded to the Opposition team will be donated to Befrienders KL.

(second from left) Suresh Gnanasegarah, Erina Durani, and Kuhanesvaren Elangovvan, who acted as the Opposition, with their prize

In his closing remarks, Kenny Ong, Chairman of the Content Forum, stated that depression is real, and people dealing with it are often driven into situations that lead them to make life-or-death decisions.

“Content and industry professionals also have a role to play, especially in the responsible reporting of suicide events. Sensationalising death by suicide and its repeated projections in the media is a cause for concern,” Ong stated.

Kenny Ong, Chairman of the Content Forum of Malaysia at his closing speech

The media should use available guidelines on reporting suicides and exercise self-regulation to uphold responsible and sensitive reporting.

The Content Forum believes it takes a concerted effort from society, including content and industry professionals, to watch out for and protect our community. In this respect, the Content Forum has recently revised the Content Code to reflect current societal values.

[1] https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2022/01/14/malaysia-is-2nd-in-asia-for-youth-cyberbullying

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