Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Expression

11
Sep
17

The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia – Human Rights Watch 2016 Report

Deepening the Culture of Fear
The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia

Malaysia’s use of criminal laws to arrest, question, and prosecute individuals for peaceful speech and assembly has deepened in the year since Human Rights Watch published Creating a Culture of Fear: The Criminalization of Expression in Malaysia in October 2015.[1] The Malaysian authorities have moved forward with the prosecutions of many of those featured in that report, and continue to use the overly broad and vaguely worded criminal laws identified there to harass, arrest, and prosecute those critical of the government or of members of Malaysia’s royal families.

The Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) remain the laws most frequently used against critical speech in Malaysia. Those criticizing the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak or commenting on the government’s handling of a major corruption scandal have been particular targets. The long-running corruption scandal involving the government-owned investment fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has prompted calls from politicians, civil society activists, and commentators for Prime Minster Najib to resign from office. Rather than treating such statements as part of normal give-and-take in a democratic society, the Malaysian authorities have treated such speech as criminal, investigating those involved for sedition, “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy,” and violations of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Similarly, the government has pursued those making comments on social media deemed “insulting” to Najib or members of royal families with criminal investigations and charges under the Sedition Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act, and provisions of the penal code. The government has also continued to prosecute individuals for exercising their right to peaceful assembly under Malaysia’s overly restrictive Peaceful Assembly Act, and has used the Official Secrets Act to shield reports on the 1MDB scandal from public view.

Rather than amending the laws to bring them into line with international legal standards, as recommended in Human Rights Watch’s 2015 report, the Malaysian government has moved in the opposite direction by suggesting it would strengthen some of the rights-offending laws, particularly those that can be used against speech on social media.

Human Rights Watch reiterates its call for the Malaysian government to cease using criminal laws against peaceful speech and assembly, and to bring its laws and policies into line with international human rights law and standards for the protection of freedom of expression and assembly.

…more
Deepening the Culture of Fear
The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia
Oct 2016 – Human Rights Watch

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09
Jun
16

Stop harassing Fahmi Reza and others — HAKAM

Stop harassing Fahmi Reza and others — HAKAM

JUNE 7 — The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) condemns the 4 June arrests of activist and graphic artist Fahmi Reza and three others, Lew Pik-Svonn, Pang Khee Teik and Arif Rafhan Othman and their being investigated for alleged offences under the Sedition Act 1948. HAKAM views these arrests as another attempt by the Government to stifle free speech and quash dissent, adding to the burgeoning series of blatant acts by the authorities to limit the freedom of expression of individuals — a fundamental human right by international standards.

It has been reported that on 4 June Fahmi was arrested and is being investigated under Section 41c of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 11 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, in connection with his sale of T-shirts bearing his #KitaSemuaPenghasut design. On the same day, three others, Lew, Pang and Arif were also arrested by the police and taken in for questioning in connection with the sale of T-shirts carrying allegedly seditious messages.

On 6 June, Fahmi was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for posting a clown caricature resembling Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on his Instagram account on 31 January, which prosecutors charge to be an offence under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA). He has claimed trial to this charge and if found guilty, he faces a RM50,000 fine, a one-year jail term, or both.

Fahmi will soon be facing a separate charge at the Ipoh Sessions Court for an alleged offence also under Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA. This second charge results from a complaint by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in relation to Fahmi’s posting of a parody MCMC notice bearing the same clown caricature on his Facebook page on 8 February.

Recalling the wide ambit of Section 233 of the CMA and the ill-defined scope for offences it prescribes, this section can only be described as an unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of expression based on recognised international standards. Like other laws that impinge on freedom of expression, the authorities’ prosecution of alleged offenders in reliance of this provision of the CMA seems arbitrary and selective.

In the past two years, the Government has severely interfered with freedoms of expression, speech and information through increased blocking of media websites both local and international, intensified questioning and/or arrests of activists, journalists, lawyers and cartoonists over online content and the passing of a series of tougher laws with stiffer penalties for offences to do with online expression.

HAKAM seeks to remind the Government of its obligations to protect and promote freedom of expression, speech and information, and to safeguard human rights in the digital sphere.

As such, HAKAM calls on the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police to put an end to the series of arrests and prosecution which could be viewed as intimidation on the part of the authorities.

HAKAM stands in solidarity with Fahmi Reza and those arrested for voicing their opinions and expressing themselves, and calls on the Government to stop invoking Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA, Section 11 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, and the Sedition Act to stifle freedom of expression.

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Stop harassing Fahmi Reza and others — HAKAM
June 7, 2016 – MMO

23
May
16

Ridiculing the government is part of democracy

Ridiculing the government is part of democracy


So it is extremely disturbing to read that the Immigration Department reportedly enforced a ruling a few months ago to prohibit Malaysians who ridicule the government from travelling overseas for three years. This came after Bersih 2.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah, who has been fighting for free and fair elections, was barred from flying to South Korea last Sunday to receive a human rights award for the electoral reform NGO. DAP lawmaker Tony Pua has also been barred from leaving the country since last July.

Criticising the government is not a criminal offence.

Controlling the movement of Malaysians solely because of their political ideologies is an abhorrent abuse of power.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed claimed that the Malaysian passport is a privilege, not a right. He also claimed that the government’s definition of insult or ridicule is based on the Federal Constitution.

However, the word “insult” is not found anywhere in the Federal Constitution. The only thing that comes close to criminalising so-called insults is Section 298A of the Penal Code that prohibits causing disharmony on grounds of religion. Nothing to do with insulting the government.

According to Nur Jazlan, the government considers religious and racial insults as equivalent to insulting the country and as such, can merit an overseas travel ban.

If that’s indeed the case, then the government should first haul such people to court, charge them with a criminal offence (if any), and get a conviction before punishing them with a travel ban. Imposing such a heavy punishment arbitrarily, even before a court decides if one has committed a crime, violates the maxim of innocent till proven guilty.

In any case, hurling insults or criticisms should never be criminalised in the interest of freedom of speech. Travel restrictions should only be enforced against people charged with actual crimes to prevent them from fleeing the country.

The Home Ministry should also take note of our fundamental right to freedom of movement under Article 9 of the Federal Constitution. Although the Article doesn’t specifically mention the freedom to travel abroad, the spirit of the law should be observed. Article 5 of the Federal Constitution also guarantees Malaysians the right to personal liberty.

Article 13 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically mentions one’s right to leave their country and to return to it.

By the way things are going in Malaysia, less than five years before we’re supposed to achieve developed nation status, it appears that the government is intent on regressing into a dictatorship.

…more
Ridiculing the government is part of democracy
May 20, 2016 – MMO

20
May
16

There’s no general discretionary power to restrict Malaysian’s right to travel

Thiru: Only two exceptions allow travel ban

There’s no general discretionary power to restrict a citizen’s right to travel in and out of Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar has urged Putrajaya to immediately rescind the overseas travel ban that the authorities have imposed on Maria Chin Abdullah and others, and to cease and desist from resorting to any illegitimate means of wrongfully silencing its critics.

“The government must also take concrete measures to promote open and constructive criticism of it by others,” added Malaysian Bar Chairman Steven Thiru in a statement. “It must safeguard each citizen’s right to unimpeded freedom of movement and freedom of expression, and adhere to basic principles of the rule of law and natural justice.”

There’s no general discretionary power to restrict a citizen’s right to travel in and out of Malaysia, pointed out Thiru. “Unrestrained discretion in the hands of the government is a myth. There’s no express provision to bar travel under the Immigration Act 1959/63.”

“There is a limited power to restrict a citizen’s right to travel, but only under specific legislation such as Section 104 of the Income Tax Act 1967 and Section 38A(1) of the Bankruptcy Act 1967.”

Otherwise, continued Thiru, a travel ban violates the right to life or personal liberty that is guaranteed in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, which extends to the right to travel.

He argued that it was also untenable for the immigration authorities to restrict an individual’s right to travel without giving any written reasons. “There’s a duty to give reasons in law when a fundamental right is denied.”

“The immigration authorities therefore have a legal obligation to provide the justification for imposing a travel ban on a particular individual.”

The failure to specify the basis for barring travel would imply that none in fact exists, and that the decision was simply a capricious exercise of discretion by the immigration authorities to restrict freedom of movement of selected persons, charged Thiru. “It gives rise to a perception of abuse of power.”

“This and other incidents of travel bans being imposed will also invariably be viewed as a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence those who seek to exercise their freedom of movement and expression to expose wrongdoing within the corridors of power.”

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Thiru: Only two exceptions allow travel ban
May 20, 2016 – FMT

24
Mar
16

STOP Internet censorship

Government should embrace the Internet, not impose more restrictions to stifle news portals and blogs – Lawyers for Liberty

MARCH 23 – Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s proposal for online news portals and political blogs to be registered with the government, thus effectively restricting further the ever-shrinking democratic space in the country.

The fact that Minister Salleh Said Keruak distinguishes between political and non-political blogs for registration is extremely telling that the real purpose for the registration is to quell critical and dissenting news and views against the government.

We also note with extreme concern that such underhanded tactics are not new, as in the recent past, The Edge, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report and other independent press and blogs had been targeted with investigations, arrests or blocks on the Internet while pro-government press like Utusan Malaysia and blogs have been allowed to publish freely.

There are no good and valid reasons for registering news websites and blogs other than an attempt to control news and information critical of the government. Such behaviour is undemocratic, a grave abuse of power and in breach of the ‘no-Internet-censorship’ policy which is protected in both the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees.

The authorities must be reminded that real crimes are not to be found online in news websites and blogs and on social media. It would be more prudent for the government to come to terms with the reality of the vast and borderless Internet and social media age where anybody, in good faith or otherwise can write or comment on any issues.

As increasing number of states are moving towards more transparency and accountability, respecting the demands of freedom of information, speech and the press, Malaysia is taking giant strides backwards, towards harsher and excessive penal laws and regulations that are inconsistent with modern democratic demands.

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Government should embrace the Internet, not impose more restrictions to stifle news portals and blogs – Lawyers for Liberty
March 23, 2016 – MMO

01
Mar
16

Sliding towards an authoritarian state

Sliding towards an authoritarian state

A government that uses state agencies to silent its critics. A government that demands loyalty from mainstream media.

A government that abuses state resources for its political advantage and distributes propaganda books in the universities. A government that bans a newspaper and threatens its critics with sedition.

Is this Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand or North Korea?

On its eighth birthday, The Malaysian Insider is banned by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in the name of “national security”.

The country is becoming more and more unrecognisable. When I read the news these days, I feel a tinge of shame and anger because these are the kind of news that are reported from and about despotic regimes around the world. Is this really Malaysia and not North Korea, Egypt or Thailand?

Not so long ago, our economic growth was seen as exciting as South Korea’s. Then the Asian tiger economies (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong) boomed. We stayed behind.

Our second chance arrived when we were dubbed the “Tiger Cubs”, comprising of Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillippines and Thailand, the newly-industrialised, export-driven economies after the original and prosperous four tigers. Then the Asian financial crisis happened, and now we weren’t even sure of our place among the Tiger Cubs.

Vietnam is coming off very strong and rapidly in the past decade. If we remain stagnant and complacent as we are, let us not act surprised when we are overtaken by Vietnam.

It seems that our political decline echoes our economic decline. Are we still a democratic society, or an authoritarian state? Are we governed by a government elected by popular will and through free and fair elections, or a despotic regime who will do whatever it takes to cling to power and protect its own interests?

While Indonesia is forging ahead with its democratisation in the post-Suharto era, it is scary to think that Malaysia is going the opposition direction. We are scaling back promises of democratic progress and seem to be pressing further ahead on authoritarian state.

Nowhere is this shift from democratic to authoritarian aspirations more exemplified than the prime minister’s promise on live television in 2012, to abolish the arbitrary and abusive Sedition Act, a relic from the colonial era, only to backtrack later. The Sedition Act has now been reinforced and many more are rounded up for charges since.

Recently, a Mexican journalist was killed for doing his job. In Egypt, dozens of journalists are arrested by the military regime. In Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan jailed journalists for supposedly threatening to overthrow the Turkish state.

Look at where we are heading at this moment. Think of any country’s government which bans a newspaper. Think of all the names that came up and decide whether you can be proud to associate the country with any of those names. Do we want our country to be like them?

The MCMC cited Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 – which deals with content that is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”.

Look at the language. Pay attention to how vague and arbitrary it is. It is so loosely defined that you can imagine how it can easily be twisted and abused. It fits perfectly into the world of George Orwell.

On another occasion, the minister even said that The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has an anti-Malaysia agenda. I am not sure if the minister has come across WSJ in his tertiary education, but it is an international news organisation who couldn’t be interested enough to conjure a complex conspiracy to bring down the Malaysian government. His childish reaction is appalling beyond reason.

What will the state or MCMC do next? Ban international news networks that publish disagreeable reports on the debt-ridden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)? If WSJ persists in pursuing the story, will MCMC ban the sale of WSJ’s print edition nationwide and block access to its online portal?

When Malaysians go to study overseas, we are often reminded not to tarnish the reputation of the country. With the fiasco caused by those at the very top, such calls ring hollow.

Nothing we do, not even failing and getting kicked out of school, can cause an iota of the damage done by those at the very top. Not only they do not try to reverse the perception, now the establishment does not care about media coverage and public perception anymore. It hinges on survival instinct and has shown its willingness to go the distance in order to protect its interest.

Finally, do they think that we are so stupid as to be so easily confused? Can our “leaders”, if they deserved to be called such, not look down on the intelligence of the Malaysian people?

Is it possible to challenge them to a quiz trivia, chess game, or debate to prove that we are not as easily confused as they are? The tendency to be easily confused is not a contagious disease.

Such is the sad state of the country presently. Have you ever wonder why and how a beautiful woman ends up with an obnoxious, selfish, and utterly undeserving partner? I feel the same way about our country and its “leaders” these days. – February 27, 2016.

…more
Sliding towards an authoritarian state
BY Ooi Kok Hin
27 February 2016 – TMI

27
Feb
16

Law doesn’t let MCMC block websites

Law doesn’t let MCMC block websites, says global rights group

Malaysia’s Internet regulator does not have the power to block a website without due process of law, Amnesty International said today over the latest case of Putrajaya’s suppression of online media.

Amnesty’s Southeast Asia and Pacific campaigns deputy director Josef Roy Benedict said the law cited by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to justify the block on The Malaysian Insider only “lays down the offence of ‘improper use of network facilities or network service'”.

“Breaches of this provision must be proven before a court where the defence must be given a chance to answer to the charge before a decision is made and sanctions meted out,” he said in a statement.

He also said the block was a “misuse” of the criminal justice system.

MCMC has cited Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 to justify blocking access to TMI since Thursday over a report which it said had caused “public confusion”.

The report quoted an unnamed source from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on an investigation related to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“If the authorities have reasonable concerns about the content, these should be addressed in line with provisions provided by law and according to international standards, which must be necessary and proportional to a legitimate aim.

“The authorities must not use such restrictions to simply silence a critical voice,” Amnesty said, describing the move as “harassment and intimidation of journalists and editors”.

Amnesty said Putrajaya’s crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly had been “unprecedented” in the last two years.

Its 2015/2016 report on the State of the World’s Human Rights released earlier this week said Malaysia had “intensified” its clamps on freedom of expression in the country.

…more
Law doesn’t let MCMC block websites, says global rights group
27 February 2016 – TMI




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We cannot afford ridiculously expensive RM55 Billion ECRL!
All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?

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