Be More Ethical On Social Media, MOH Tells Staff

The Ministry of Health secretary-general tells staff to forward complaints via official channels through the Public Complaints Management System.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has warned government workers that they face termination should they publicly criticise government policy on social media.

MOH secretary-general Mohd Shafiq Abdullah reminded all MOH staff to be more “ethical” when using their personal social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok, or blogs.

He pointed out that his previous February 22 circular reminded MOH staff against making any public statements, whether in their official or personal capacity, that could affect the quality of public service, especially at MOH.

“By taking into account the regulation in force and several reminders previously issued, if there is sufficient evidence of public officers at MOH breaching the regulation, disciplinary action can be taken against officers, including termination of employment, for breaching regulations and affecting the image of public service,” Mohd Shafiq said in a circular dated June 22, as sighted by CodeBlue.

“Even though the government has repeatedly issued various guidelines, reminders, and reprimands, especially MOH’s top management, we still find a number of MOH staff who do not take note or take this matter seriously.

“MOH staff who wish to forward any complaint, opinion, or suggestions for improvement must use official channels prepared by the MOH, which is through the Public Complaints Management System (SISPAA)/ letters/ phone/ email/ fax/ suggestion or complaints box, or be physically present at the Corporate Communications Unit or any MOH facility,” he added.

Mohd Shafiq cited Section 19 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 that states that public officers shall not make any “public statement” — either orally or in writing — that is “detrimental to any policy, programme or decision of the government on any issue” or that may “embarrass or bring disrepute to the government”, or make “any comments on any weakness of any policy, programme or decision of the government”.

The regulation also prohibits public officers from making “any comments on the advantages of any policy, programme, or decision of the government”, from giving “any factual information relating to the exercise of the functions of the government”, and from giving “any explanation in respect of any incident or report which involves the government”. 

Public officers can only make such statements upon obtaining prior written permission from the minister. Exceptions are made for announcements about operational matters that are decided by the government from time to time or based on current law.

The 1993 regulation defines “public statement” as including “any statement or comment made to the press or to the public or in the course of any public lecture or speech or in any broadcast or publication, regardless of the means”.

Mohd Shafiq’s circular did not cite any particular incident that led to his warning. The government, including MOH, has come under intense scrutiny amid a lockdown lasting beyond four weeks that has yet to significantly curb the Covid-19 epidemic.

Contract doctors also recently called for a strike next month to protest against the lack of permanent posts for them.

Amendment note: CodeBlue amended the headline to focus on the thrust of the MOH secretary-general’s message in his circular.  

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