KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — Lawyers for Liberty today condemned the government’s prohibition order against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-themed (LGBTQ+) Swatch timepieces as “unlawful, unconstitutional, and intolerant.”

The lawyer group’s director Zaid Malek said that the order issued yesterday was ostensibly issued due to concerns that the watches might be “prejudicial to morality” and has been met with allegations of excessive intrusion into personal choices and irrational limitations on freedom of expression.

“This is an unlawful and unconstitutional order criminalising not only the publication by the Swatch company but also making it a criminal offence for anyone now owning any Swatch-related LGBT items.

“It is also insufferable nannying and intolerance from a government that is supposed to be led by ‘reformists’,” he said in a statement here.


He also raised suspicions about the timing of the order, coinciding with upcoming state elections tomorrow.

“With the state elections in a few days, this appears to be yet another ploy to garner votes from the Malay conservatives.

“As such, we urge the government to withdraw the prohibition order under the PPPA effective immediately and to uphold its duty to protect freedom of expression under our constitution,” he said.


Malek pointed out that Article 10(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, shielding individuals from criminalisation for sharing LGBT-related content through various mediums.

While Article 10(2)(a) permits limitations on the grounds of public order or morality, Malek argued that such restrictions should remain within reasonable bounds.

“The order banning the Swatch watches over a particular design supposedly related to LGBT is arbitrary and disproportionate, and hence unconstitutional,” he said.

According to the government gazette published yesterday, the prohibition order was made on August 9, 2023 by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail via his powers under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), with the publisher of this banned publication named as “Swatch Limited, Switzerland”.

The Home Ministry said the penalty, upon conviction, would be a maximum three-year prison term or a maximum RM20,000 fine or both, based on Section 8(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

On May 13 to 15, 2023, Home Ministry officers raided 16 of Swatch’s stores throughout Malaysia and seized 172 watches worth RM64,795.

As a response on June 24, the Swatch Group (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd filed the lawsuit via a judicial review application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.