The European Union (EU) has urged Putrajaya to respect human rights after Malaysia passed amendments in Parliament to strengthen the Sedition Act 1948.
A Brussels-based EU high representative spokesperson in a statement today cited "controversial uses" of the Sedition Act even before the law was strengthened.
"Malaysia has decided to strengthen the Sedition Act, instead of repealing it as previously announced.
"This can have implications for the exercise of freedom of expression as demonstrated by recent controversial instances of application of the Act.
"As a friend to Malaysia, the EU recalls that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and trust in due process are essential tenets of any democratic system, underpinning growth, prosperity, and harmony," said the spokesperson.
The statement comes a day after the US expressed similar concerns and urged Putrajaya to drop previous sedition charges that are no longer a crime under the updated law.
While criticism of the government and judiciary is no longer considered seditious, sedition on grounds of religion was introduced and the definition of sedition was also expanded in the amendments.
The fortified Sedition Act abolishes fines as punishment in favour of mandatory jail.
The maximum jail term was also raised from three years to 20 years.
Crackdown on free expression, say journalists
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) said it "strongly deplored" the amendments which expanded the law's power to prosecute and censor online media.
"The expansion of the Act passed through Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat on Friday, April 10 has followed a series of increasingly intimidatory tactics by Malaysian authorities to crack down on freedom of expression and free speech under the guise of sedition," it said in a statement today.
IFJ said the move to boost the Sedition Act comes at a time where freedom of expression was increasingly under threat as several media personnel have been hauled up by police for sedition and other alleged offences.
"This colonial era sedition law and these amendments are clearly being used to intimidate and threaten journalists and stifle freedom of expression in Malaysia.
"The introduction of excessive jail terms and questionable motivations for sedition charges in Malaysia places puts the country back in the dark ages in terms of press freedom as the government backpedals on its past promises and uses everything in its power to silence critics and oppositional voices," said IFJ.
It added that Malaysia's press freedom has been on a "steady decline for a number of years" under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
"Both the IFJ and NUJM call on the Malaysian government honour the commitment made in 2012 to repeal the Sedition Act and to respect constitutional commitments to a free and independent media," it said.