Repeal Sedition Act, halt investigations — CIJ Malaysia

JANUARY 10 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia 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 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 states that in any event, the recent arrests do not fall within the above categories as set out by the minister. Comments that are insulting but are not a threat to any of the above 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 reimpose 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 Pakatan Harapan 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 Pakatan Harapan manifesto, and its repeal is vital to upholding the promise to make Malaysia’s human rights record respected to internationally.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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