THE Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned over the use of the Sedition Act to arrest three individuals for posting comments on social media “deemed insulting” to Sultan Muhammad V following his resignation as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
CIJ recalls that when the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government lifted the moratorium on the use of the Sedition Act, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo stated that its use would be reserved for issues involving national security, public order, and race relations.
CIJ disagrees with the lifting of the moratorium; and in any event, the recent arrests do not fall within the categories set out by the minister. Comments that are insulting but are not a threat to any of the categories should not warrant arrest under the Sedition Act.
These arrests demonstrate the problematic nature of lifting the moratorium on a broad-based law such as the Sedition Act.
Although the minister may have sought to limit the categories under which the Act could be used, this is clearly not being heeded by those on the ground.
The questioning of civil society activist Sevan Doraisamy immediately following the lifting of the moratorium on the Sedition Act is another example of how these purported limits do not work in practice.
CIJ therefore calls on the government to re-impose the moratorium on the Sedition Act and to abolish the Sedition Act without delay to prevent any future abuse of this draconian, colonial-era law. Doing so is an important symbolic act to signify that the PH government is committed to the rule of law and will not rely on heavy-handed laws that were used by the previous government to silence critical and opposing voices.
Further, the repeal of the Sedition Act was part of the PH manifesto, and its repeal is vital to uphold the promise to make Malaysia’s human rights record respected internationally.
Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia
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