Amnesty International urged the Malaysian Government to abolish the Sedition Act immediately, and review and amend all other laws against freedom of expression.
This would be in compliance with international law and standards, pointed out AI-Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu in a statement.
She was commenting on Batu MP Tian Chua’s guilty verdict on Wednesday on a sedition charge. “It’s a setback for freedom of expression.”
The AI-M statement also urged all sedition charges against cartoonist Zunar, lawyer Eric Paulsen, activist Khalid Ismath and Padang Serai MP N. Surendran and other activists be dropped.
There are renewed fears the authorities will use repressive legislation to silence dissent and legitimate comments, added the statement. “This indicates a further erosion of rights under international law and standards.”
The NGO reminded the Malaysian Government that freedom of speech was the cornerstone of civilisation. “The ability of individuals to criticise the state was crucial to maintaining liberty,” it said. “It must not be criminalised.”
The Sedition Act 1948 is a colonial-era legislation enacted by the British.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak promised in 2012 to repeal the Act.
Instead, he strengthened the Act.
Under the Sedition Act (Amendments) 2015, passed by Parliament on 7 April 2015, tougher penalties would be imposed. This includes mandatory jail up to seven years.
Seditious acts which lead to bodily injury or damage to property, even through no fault of the accused, will be punished by a mandatory jail term up to 20 years.
Tian Chua, also a PKR Vice-President, was sentenced to three months’ jail and fined RM1,800, in default six months’ jail.
He was found guilty of uttering “seditious” words in a speech, post-GE13, which the court determined had the tendency to incite people against the government.
His jail term has been stayed pending appeal.
FMT Reporters Online