BY ANISAH SHUKRY
Published: 9 October 2014
A string of people have been charged with sedition, including elected members of parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 9, 2014.
The United Nations (UN) has again urged Malaysia to withdraw the Sedition Act 1948, after receiving reports that Putrajaya is increasingly criminalising criticism towards the government or its officials.
In a statement, four UN rapporteurs said the Sedition Act was being used in a way that prevents Malaysians from expressing and debating, freely and openly, a diverse range of political opinions and ideas.
“It is time for Malaysia to adjust its legislation, including the 1948 Sedition Act, to be in line with international human rights standards, and take firm steps towards the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression,” they said today.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office last month expressed concern over the arbitrary use of the Sedition Act in the country.
The four UN rapporteurs comprise the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression: David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.
The independent experts said they had received reports of at least 23 recent cases of persons charged with sedition, including elected members of parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists.
They said that as recently as March, Malaysia had committed to the Human Rights Council to address international concerns regarding the Sedition Act, which they said “outlaws vague offences”.
“We wish to build on this commitment and engage in a dialogue with the Malaysian authorities to end the criminalisation and prosecution of what appears to be legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
“We have offered our support to the authorities in this way forward,” the rapporteurs said.
According to the UN’s press release, its experts had expressed concern over Malaysia’s Sedition Act on several occasions.
“The first UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Abid Hussain, who visited Malaysia 16 years ago, expressed concerns at the time that the Sedition Act could be used to suppress expression and curb peaceful assembly.”
This morning, The Malaysian Insider reported that police were now investigating former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan for sedition over remarks made about the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) or National Civics Bureau.
Last week, constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari was asked to give his statement to police after reports were lodged against him for allegedly insulting the Sultan of Selangor.
Earlier last month, activists Safwan Anang and Adam Adli Abd Halim were sentenced to 10 months and 12 months in prison respectively, for remarks made at a May 13 forum last year calling on the people to take to the streets over the general election results.
Activist Ali Abd Jalil faces three sedition charges for allegedly insulting the Johor royalty and the Selangor Sultan in Facebook postings. Ali, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was released on bail after being detained for more than 20 days.
On September 26, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had his statement recorded by police over a report lodged against him in 2011, where he allegedly uttered seditious remarks over his second sodomy case.
On September 20, police recorded a statement from lawyer Edmund Bon, who is being investigated for sedition for saying that non-Muslims are not subject to fatwas or the shariah courts.
Former Selangor PAS ulama committee member, Wan Ji Wan Hussin, was charged on September 10 with sedition after posting allegedly seditious words on Facebook that belittled the Selangor Sultan’s role as head of Islamic matters in the state.
On September 4, journalist Susan Loone was arrested in Penang over her article based on an interview with state executive council member Phee Boon Poh and the mass arrests of the state’s Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) on Merdeka Day.
Other opposition politicians who have been charged with sedition include Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, Padang Serai MP N. Surendran, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Batu MP Chua Tian Chang, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer. – October 9, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/again-un-tells-putrajaya-to-abolish-sedition-act#sthash.2fS5at9m.dpuf