Malaysia: CSOs call for repeal of Sedition Act and stop the persecution of activists

The Malaysian Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Platform for Reform are demanding the reinstatement of the moratorium on the Sedition Act 1948 and for the Act’s repeal after police used the law to detain and question seven activists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Malaysian government to drop the activists’ investigations.

Activists protest during the #Lawan rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 31, 2021. Credit: Centre for Independent Journalism

On September 4, seven activists from Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR), a youth coalition, were hauled to district police headquarters in Dang Wang, Kuala Lumpuri. They are being investigated for sedition over the cancelled second #Lawan protest on August 21. The investigation follows Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation, as the #Lawan movement has mounted broadly supported criticism of the Malaysian government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The CSO Platform for Reform, a coalition concerned with institutional reform in Malaysia, issued a statement condemning the sedition investigation. The group urged the newly appointed National Alliance Cabinet to immediately return the suspension of the Sedition Act and to stop the abuse of the legal system to silence those exercising their right to expression.

“Since the National Alliance Government (PN) came to power in March 2020, the Sedition Act has been used continuously as a weapon to suppress critical differences of opinion and debate in Malaysia,” said the group’s statement.

The IFJ and the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) noted more than three times the number of sedition investigations in 2020 as compared to 2019 in the Locked Down: Screws tighten on press freedom in Malaysia report. 

Repeated pledges to repeal the Act at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in 2013 and the UN General Assembly in 2018 have not been acted upon. 

In October 2018, the Malaysian government under Pakatan Harapan introduced a moratorium, assuring that the Act would be repealed at the following Parliament session. However, a month later, the moratorium was lifted.

The IFJ said: “The International Federation of Journalists urge the Malaysian government to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 to protect the freedom of expression, speech and association of citizens and media workers.”

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