BY LEE SHI-IAN
In a statement, Amnesty International said opposition lawmakers, human rights activists, lawyers, students, academics and journalists were all at risk of arbitrary arrest.
“There has been alarming use of the draconian and archaic Sedition Act in recent weeks,” it said, noting that the law was being used to silence critics.
“Putrajaya should immediately grant an unconditional release of all those who have been detained or imprisoned under the Sedition Act.
“These individuals were merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, hence Putrajaya is urged to immediately repeal the act as well.”
The global human rights body said it was concerned that the colonial-era law was being used to “criminalise a wide array of acts”.
Since the beginning of August, at least eight people have been charged and are at risk of imprisonment for making allegedly “seditious” statements under the Sedition Act.
Preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin, site supervisor Chow Mun Fai, student Ali Abdul Jalil, politician David Orok, academician Dr Azmi Sharom, Padang Serai MP N. Surendran, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Seri Delima state assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer have all fallen afoul of the Sedition Act.
They have been charged under Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 which criminalises the use of seditious words and publications.
The law defines seditious acts or words as having the “tendency to excite disaffection against any ruler or government” or to “question any matter protected by the Constitution”.
Those found guilty can face three years in prison, be fined up to RM5,000 or both.
Amnesty International said the Sedition Act did not comply with international human rights law and standards and violated the right to freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and also guaranteed in Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution.”
Two people who have been convicted under the Sedition Act since the start of 2013 are former student leader Muhammad Safwan Anang and politician P. Uthayakumar.
Safwan was sentenced to 10 months in prison for making seditious comments made at a rally in May 2013, and is currently on bail pending appeal.
Uthayakumar is serving 24 months in Kajang prison after being found guilty of sedition in June 2013 for publishing allegedly “seditious” material in 2007.
Amnesty International called on human activists around the world to write in appeal to Putrajaya to repeal the Sedition Act and release all those who had been imprisoned. – September 18, 2014.
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