Malaysia: Freedom of Expression Under Attack

25 July 2016, 17:54 UTC | Malaysia
© MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Malaysia is spiralling into a dark era of repression; the 1948 Sedition Act is being used more and more to silence human rights defenders and activists who speak out against the Government.

In 2015 the act was used  91 times to arrest, investigate or charge individuals simply expressing their political, religious or other views and use of the law is leading many people to ‘self-censor’, with a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak committed to abolish the Sedition Act in 2012 but he has failed to deliver on that promise and instead seems to be intent on strengthening the law

Right now freedom is under attack in Malaysia and human rights defenders are the target.

  • Political cartoonist Zunar is on trial for nine counts of sedition over tweets criticising a Federal Court decision
  • Law professor Azmi Sharom charged with sedition for offering his legal opinion on measures taken during a constitutional crisis.
  • Journalist Susan Loone, arrested for reporting the words of a politician that were allegedly seditious
  • Student activist Khalid Ismath is on trial for three counts of sedition for social media comments allegedly offensive to the johor State royal family.
  • Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen, on trial for a sedition charge of his tweets critical of government religious agency
  • Opposition politician Rafizi Ramli is facing multiple sedition investigations for several different criticisms of the government's political and economic policies

Speak out against Sedition

There is no basis to Malaysia’s Sedition Act. It violates the right to freedom of expression (enshrined under Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights), fails to comply with international human rights law and restricts creativity and freedom of thought among human rights defenders in Malaysia.

This year we need you to speak out against sedition. We are calling on Malaysian authorities to take steps towards repealing the 1948 Sedition Act. To quash convictions and release anyone who was arrested and charged under the act solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

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