FMT Reporters | October 13, 2016
Tolerance by the authorities for dissent is so low that even ordinary social media users are being targeted, says latest report.
KUALA LUMPUR: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a 40-page document on the Malaysian Government’s bid to “criminalise” peaceful speech and assembly.
The Government uses “overbroad and vaguely worded laws” the HRW charges in the report titled, “Deepening the Culture of Fear: The Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia.”
Malaysia’s prosecution of peaceful speech had spread beyond activists and politicians, noted Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW in a statement. “It has spread to ordinary citizens on social media.”
The Government’s actions signal an ever-broadening crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly in the country, he warned.
Since HRW’s October 2015 report, “Creating a Culture of Fear,” the Malaysian Government had done little to bring laws and practices in line with international legal standards, charged Robertson.
Instead, he lamented, the Government had suggested it would strengthen, among others, statutes limiting speech on social media.
“Criminalising peaceful speech appears part of the Malaysian Government’s efforts to tighten the noose on political discontent,” said Robertson.
The Government has particularly sought to punish individuals who have criticised Prime Minister Najib Razak on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, he said.
The Government had also gone after those deemed to have ‘insulted’ Najib or the sultans on social media, Robertson noted.
Elsewhere, he said, the Government had sought to discourage people from holding public assemblies and protests by resorting to the Peaceful Assembly Act.
The Government had also gone to great efforts to keep controversial information out of public view, he continued. “This can be seen in its use of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on the 1MDB scandal.”
Faced with new leaks of information on the 1MDB scandal, said the HRW statement, the Government had also threatened to increase penalties under the OSA to life in prison.
“As Najib’s political fortunes fall, Malaysia’s intolerance of critical speech seems to rise,” noted Robertson.
“Deepening the Culture of Fear: The Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia” is available at: https://www.hrw.org/node/294918/
~ Free Malaysia Today