KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Despite promising reforms, the government has continued to use wide-sweeping and vague laws like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 in an attempt to rein in critical views, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) asserted today.

Speaking at the release of its Malaysia Human Rights Report 2023 Overview, Suaram documentation and monitoring coordinator Jernelle Tan Chia Ee said police opened 17 investigations under the Sedition Act, but only used it in court in three instances.

“Through media monitoring efforts, we have uncovered 20 cases involving 17 individuals,”

“Out of these 20 investigations, three led to court charges," she said.

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The report also indicated that CMA has been increasingly used to investigate and charge people for cases that touched on the 3R (race, religion, royalty) issues in its study which encompasses cases charged and investigated this year.

For the CMA, in total, 60 investigations were conducted but 55 of the cases were never charged, making only five instances where Section 233 CMA was used to charge people this year for ‘improper use of network facilities’.

Four out of five instances where the CMA was used to investigate and charge cases revolved around the 3R issues, three on religion and royalty, and only one on race.

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Further, Tan also said that the government banned five items under Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 this year for "undesirable publications".

The publications were The Tale of Steven, Jacob’s Room to Choose, Aku, Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective, and the Swatch Pride watches.

Along the same vein, in August this year the Home Ministry, using Section 7(1) of the PPPA raided the bookstore Toko Buku Rakyat. Its officials confiscated two books Marx Sang Pendidik Revolusioner and Koleksi Puisi Masturbasi even when the books were not banned.

The PPPA was also used to charge a woman for having possession of RM1.1 million worth of sex toys in Penang in March, the report said.

The Malaysia Human Rights Report 2023 Overview report utilised minister's answers in the Parliament and news monitoring.

Suaram is a human rights watchdog specialising in advocating for and educating the public on civil and political rights in Malaysia.