Civil society sets up legal defence fund to help those facing threats for exercising free speech

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 09 Dec 2020

PETALING JAYA: A legal defence fund has been set up by the Freedom of Expression Cluster (FOE Cluster) to support those facing threats for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu said the fund would provide assistance to those who face investigation and prosecution.

The establishment of the fund was due to the shrinking of civic space, the intensive crackdown on civil societies and on individuals who question the government, as well as on media freedom, she added.

This can be seen on the crackdown on media such as Al-Jazeera, South China Morning Post, Malaysiakini and others, she said at the launch of the fund via the CIJ's Facebook page on Wednesday (Dec 9).

Wathshlah added that following the change of government in March, it appears that the Perikatan Nasional government was focusing primarily on its own political survival where the reform agenda has been "relegated to the backseat".

The FOE Cluster is a group of civil society organisations working to promote freedom of expression in Malaysia. It is co-chaired by CIJ and human rights group Article19 Malaysia.

With the establishment of the fund, Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) chief human rights strategist Firdaus Husni said this would protect the work of human rights defenders, and ensure that it remains impactful and unhindered.

"The general purpose is to provide legal assistance to people whose freedom of expression as constitutionally guaranteed has been violated, and also to provide assistance in this situation where there are limited resources available to the person affected, in order to effectively access his or her rights to legal representation," she said.

Firdaus said other countries in the world have set up similar funds to protect activists, human rights defenders and the general exercise of freedom of expression in their country.

She added that there were no exhaustive lists as to what amounts to a violation, so long as it can be established that it is a violation of one's freedom of expression.

Firdaus also said that the allocation of the fund would be based on a "case by case" basis with a committee in place to evaluate the individual.

According to CIJ and Article 19, the fund will cover legal fees and other expenses incurred by human rights defenders or the public when facing adverse action by state authorities, adding that they will also be able to apply for additional monetary assistance and support.

The fund is managed by MCCHR, which would administer the funds once an application has been approved.

Those needing support can obtain an application form by emailing

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 0
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Nation

MACC arrests Batu Pahat school staff member over RM100,000 false claims
Floods in Batu Pahat receding
King and Queen express condolences over Turkiye quake
Hajiji's position strengthened after three reps quit Warisan
Pakatan needs to consult Umno if OK to accept sacked members
Drugs seized, 12 foreign women arrested in anti-vice raid
Those with clean hands need not fear MACC probe, says PM
Video of three Warisan reps quitting party to support Hajiji goes viral
Melaka heritage site in a state of neglect
Pakatan had 31% Malay support in GE15, says Anwar

Others Also Read