Posts Tagged ‘Sedition Act


Solidarity for Isham Rais

Isham Rais

‘They can only imprison Hisham’s body, not his voice’

Next week will see social activist Hishamuddin Rais either having to undergo a nine-month jail sentence for sedition or otherwise, when the Court of Appeal hears his case on Monday.

The 65-year-old – known as one who never minces his words together with his trademark black coat and fedora hat – will sorely be missed especially by many young activists who view him as their mentor.

It is not surprising, therefore, for Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) and Kelab Bangsar Utama to embark on the #IshamRais campaign.

Social media users were encouraged to send messages of solidarity with the hashtag IshamRais on Twitter and Facebook as well as to change their profile pictures to that of Hishamuddin’s.

A close friend to Hishamuddin, Bersih secretariat member Mandeep Singh said the campaign, which was launched on Tuesday, has since garnered thousands of retweets on Twitter.

“I’m not sure how many exactly, but for sure it’s in the thousands. (The hashtag) has also been trending every day,” he told Malaysiakini.

In a series of tweets, Mandeep (photo) said he can tweet and write posts about Hishamuddin on Facebook but he cannot deny how he is sad about the man.

“Honestly, I’m sad. Sleeping in prison is not easy,” he tweeted.

“You may say that it’s only nine months. Damn, nine months in prison is not easy.”

Commenting on Hishamuddin’s possible predicament in jail, activist Syukri Razab is of the opinion that the authorities can only imprison Hishamuddin’s body.

“If the regime thinks they can contain his voice by imprisoning him, they are wrong.

“If they really want to kill his voice, they have to imprison hundreds, even thousands of young people who have been enlightened by him,” said Syukri in an article in tribute of Hishamuddin.

Hishamuddin’s idealism, he said, will continue to flourish in the hearts and minds of young people.

‘They can only imprison Hisham’s body, not his voice’
12 May 2016 – malaysiakini


Malaysia intensified human rights crackdown in 2015, says Amnesty

Malaysia intensified human rights crackdown in 2015, says Amnesty

Malaysia “intensified” its crackdown on freedom of expression and other civil and political rights last year, the latest Amnesty International report on the State of the World’s Human Rights said.

The report for 2015/2016 to be released later today said this was evidenced from the use of the Sedition Act to silence government critics.

The act was also amended and its scope made wider to cover electronic media and include harsher penalties “such as mandatory and increased prison sentences”, the report said.

Amnesty added that the colonial-era law, which has been abolished in the United Kingdom itself, had been used to press charges against “at least 15 people” throughout last year. It mentioned political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, as one of them.

The report also noted the passing of the National Security Council (NSC) Bill by Parliament last December.

The bill gives “emergency-like” powers to a committee headed by the prime minister to declare an area under emergency and conduct searches, arrests and seizures without warrants.

Critics say such powers should only be for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as stipulated by the Federal Constitution.

Among other examples of repression noted in the report’s section on Malaysia was the Federal Court’s conviction of former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges and the upholding of his five-year prison sentence.

Amnesty described the charges as “politically motivated and an attempt to silence government critics”.

The report also noted repression of the media with the arrests of journalists by police and Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission officers over a report “concerning the Kelantan state hudud bill or Islamic penal code”, in reference to the arrest of The Malaysian Insider editors in March last year.

It said the Printing Presses and Publications Act was still in use to impose restrictions on media outlets and publishing houses, and that licences for print publications were revocable by the home minister.

This makes it “difficult for independent outlets” to get publishing permits, it said.

Amnesty said there remained various laws used against peaceful protests last year, such as the Peaceful Assembly Act, the Sedition Act and sections of the Penal Code.

Section 124 of the code on “acts detrimental to parliamentary democracy” were most often used against peaceful demonstrators, it said.

Malaysia intensified human rights crackdown in 2015, says Amnesty
24 February 2016 – TMI


The Malaysian government has no sense of humor — and that’s dangerous


I’m a cartoonist in a country where cartooning can be a crime. Under my pen name, Zunar, I expose corruption and abuses of power by the Malaysian government. As it happens, I have a good deal of material to work with. For instance, Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently facing questions about a $700 million “donation” made to his personal bank account.

Last February, police raided my home in the middle of the night and hauled me off to jail. I was handcuffed for eight hours and thrown into a cell with all the other criminal suspects. I managed to avoid telling my cellmates what I was in for: using Twitter.

I was accused of sedition over a series of tweets I sent out opposing the jailing of a prominent Malaysian opposition leader. Now I’m facing nine charges under my country’s archaic, colonial-era Sedition Act, which could result in a 43-year prison sentence . The court proceedings against me begin this month.

I was in the United States in November to receive a press freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. While I was discussing my case with American journalists and cartoonists, President Obama was in Kuala Lumpur meeting with Najib — the third time they met face to face.

Obama is eagerly courting Malaysia in his efforts to fight extremism and to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and his meeting reportedly focused on that to the virtual exclusion of everything else. That’s a grave disappointment and a missed opportunity. Obama has a responsibility to put the issue of human rights on the table.

The legal assault against me is nothing new, but it marks a major escalation. The authorities have repeatedly sought to silence me. My office has been raided multiple times since 2009, and authorities have confiscated thousands of my cartoon books. In 2010, five of my books — including “1 Funny Malaysia” — were banned by the home affairs minister, who declared the contents “detrimental to public order.” Later that year I was detained by police and locked up for two days after the publication of “Cartoon-O-Phobia.” To say the least, the Malaysian government has no sense of humor.

In late 2014, my webmaster was called in for questioning, and three of my assistants were arrested for selling my books. I was also brought in for questioning by the police, and the company that processes orders for my website was forced to disclose my customer list. In January, the police raided my office and then opened two investigations in February under the Sedition Act. That’s when they really threw the book at me.

The government hasn’t just targeted me and my associates; it also has cracked down on the entire ecosystem of free expression. Three companies that printed my books were raided and warned not to print my books in the future or their licenses would be revoked. Likewise, bookstores that carried my book were raided and their licenses were threatened. As a result, no one dares print or sell my books.

In such an environment, people like me must turn to the Internet to share our opinions and art. But now that space is under attack as well.

The Malaysian government has no sense of humor — and that’s dangerous
By Zunar
January 1 2016 – Washington Post


Malaysia invokes British-era law to stifle critics’ voices – Washington Post

Malaysia invokes British-era law to stifle critics’ voices

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Online critics of the Malaysian government would be well advised not to spend too much money on cellphones.

“Just lost number four,” Eric Paulsen, an outspoken civil liberties lawyer and compulsive tweeter, said Nov. 20 after nearly two hours of questioning at the main police station here over his latest sedition charge.

Paulsen went into the police station with a shiny new Chinese handset, a Xiaomi, and came out without it. At least it was cheaper than the iPhone and two Samsung Galaxies that previously were confiscated from him this year, apparently because they are tools in his social-media activism.

His friend Sim Tze Tzin, an opposition parliamentarian who also was questioned that day, still smarts over the iPhone 6 Plus that was taken from him this year. “Don’t they know how much that thing cost?” Sim said, laughing, after emerging from his own session with the police.

Malaysia, ostensibly one of the United States’ democratic allies in Southeast Asia, is engaged in a broad crackdown on freedom of expression that detractors say is all about silencing critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the crackdown is particularly focused on online commentary, which is proving much harder to control than traditional media.

“The government has at least two intentions,” said Yin Shao Loong, who is executive director of the Institut Rakyat, a think tank, and is aligned with the opposition. “One is to stifle freedom of expression. The other is to harass the opposition and sap their energy and tie them up in court cases that could take years.”

Najib’s government has been making heavy use of the 1948 Sedition Act, a remnant of the British colonial period, which makes it an offense to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.”

Among the three dozen or so who have been targeted so far this year are Azmi Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya who gave his legal opinion on a 2009 political crisis, and Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih group, a civil-society organization that promotes electoral reform, who has been charged with illegal assembly and sedition for organizing huge anti-Najib rallies in August.

Numerous opposition parliamentarians also have been charged with sedition, most of them for criticizing a federal court’s decision in February upholding the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy. That case is widely viewed as political.

S. Arutchelvan, a socialist politician, was charged in the past week with sedition for comments he made in February. The well-known cartoonist Zunar, who in September won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, has been charged with nine counts of sedition for nine tweets criticizing the Anwar conviction.

And two newspapers deemed hostile to the government were suspended from publishing.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian government are making a mockery of their claim to be a rights-respecting democracy by prosecuting those who speak out on corruption or say anything even remotely critical of the government,” said Linda Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch. The government, she added, should stop using “repressive laws to harass the media and intimidate its critics.”

Malaysia invokes British-era law to stifle critics’ voices
By Anna Fifield
November 28 2015 – Washington Post


The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia – HRW report

Human Rights Watch

The 143-page report, “Creating a Culture of Fear: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia,” documents the government’s use and abuse of a range of broad and vaguely worded laws to criminalize peaceful expression, including debates on matters of public interest. The report also spotlights a disturbing trend of abuse of the legal process, including late night arrests and unjustifiable remands, and a pattern of selective prosecution.

The report is based on an in-depth analysis of laws such as the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act, and various provisions of the penal code. The report includes interviews with civil society activists, journalists, lawyers, academics, opposition politicians, as well as public statements by the government and media accounts of criminal proceedings involving free speech or peaceful assembly. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Malaysian Minister for Home Affairs, the Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police and the chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission requesting their views on the issues raised in the report; none of them responded.

Download report


Stop Treating Criticism as a Crime – Human Rights Watch

Malaysia: Stop Treating Criticism as a Crime

(Kuala Lumpur) – The space for public debate and free speech in Malaysia is rapidly narrowing, as the government resorts to criminal laws to silence its critics and quell public discontent, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. United States President Barack Obama and other world leaders will gather in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on November 18, 2015, an opportunity to press for reform of the draconian laws and an end to censorship.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian government have repeatedly broken promises to revise laws that criminalize peaceful expression. Instead, Malaysia has gone on a binge of prosecutions of critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The government is making a mockery of its claims to democracy and fundamental rights by treating criticism as a crime.”

The 143-page report, “Creating a Culture of Fear: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia,” documents the government’s use and abuse of a range of broad and vaguely worded laws to criminalize peaceful expression, including debates on matters of public interest. The report also spotlights a disturbing trend of abuse of the legal process, including late night arrests and unjustifiable remands, and a pattern of selective prosecution.

The report is based on an in-depth analysis of laws such as the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act, and various provisions of the penal code. The report includes interviews with civil society activists, journalists, lawyers, academics, opposition politicians, as well as public statements by the government and media accounts of criminal proceedings involving free speech or peaceful assembly. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Malaysian Minister for Home Affairs, the Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police and the chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission requesting their views on the issues raised in the report; none of them responded.

Malaysia: Stop Treating Criticism as a Crime
October 27, 2015 – Human Rights Watch


Malaysia fast becoming a fascist state

COMMENT The increasingly and desperate use of oppressive laws like the Sedition Act 1948 is evidence enough that Malaysia is fast becoming a fascist state. By fascism, is meant a system of government marked by oppressive controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racist and religious extremism.

Even former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has voiced his fears of the country becoming a police state following the recent arrest of senior editors and top executives of The Edge media group under the sedition law.

As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day once again, let’s remind ourselves that the journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. Let us also remind ourselves that only a press free of censorship can tell the truth.

Our profession is essentially a pursuit of truth. We need not only to seek the truth but also to speak it. Boldly. Although the federal constitution does not guarantee press freedom, it guarantees the right to freedom of expression; a right to hold an opinion and to express it, however pugnacious that opinion may be.

The pursuit of truth is not merely a lofty idealism but a basic element and ethos of our profession. This is our mandate. We have no other option really; we are either in conspiracy with those who covet to hide the truth or comrades-in-arm with those who fight to free it. We are either journalists or servile apologists of the establishment.

There is no safe space in journalism. We need to understand that and we need to make a choice. That choice defines our professional identity. Our prayer and our hope is that we can find the courage to make the right choice – a choice that will make us free people or slaves to our own cowardice.

The Sedition Act 1948 was amended on April 10, just one month ago. According to a joint statement a week later by the Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association, “The amendments have dealt a crippling blow to the rule of law in Malaysia, and lend weight to the widely held public perception that we are becoming an intolerant authoritarian state”.

“The amendments do not deal with one of the most offensive elements of the Sedition Act 1948, namely that the intention of a person accused of sedition, whether noble or mischievous, is irrelevant. The offence of sedition therefore remains one of strict liability. Strict liability for criminal offences is an extreme exception in criminal law, and certainly not one that should be used in respect of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.

“The amendments also criminalise truth, inasmuch as the truth of the words that are said to constitute ‘seditious tendency’ is not a defence to a sedition charge.”

Crafted by the former colonial regime

In a nutshell, there is no defence for anyone charged under the sedition law. And none when charged has managed to escape thus far. Let us be reminded that the Sedition Act 1948 was not even enacted by Parliament but crafted by the former colonial regime.

The genesis of it is so archaic that it was actually first introduced in Singapore as the Sedition Ordinance 1938 of the Straits Settlements where it was a Crown Colony just as Penang and Malacca were. The main aim was to curtail opposition to colonial rule. Today, it is used to stifle growing opposition to a regime that has become increasingly unpopular.

Following amendments to the sedition law, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned the government that the new provisions would “seriously undermine the freedom of expression and opinion in the country, in breach of Malaysia’s federal constitution and its international human rights obligations.”

He also pointed out that the Sedition Act has been applied in many instances to curb the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression in Malaysia – including through the arrests of individuals for merely tweeting their criticism of government policies and judicial decisions.

May 9, 2015 – Malaysiakini
Malaysia fast becoming a fascist state


Fortifying authoritarian rule in Malaysia

The current session of the lower house (Dewan Rakyat) of the Parliament of Malaysia has just adjourned until mid-May. During that session, international attention focussed mainly on two issues, both of which entailed tension within, and possibly the collapse of, the Pakatan Rakyat (“PR”) Opposition alliance: the fate of jailed Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, now serving his second sentence for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”; and the possibility (now postponed) that the federal Parliament, at the insistence of PAS, the Islamic opposition party and PR component, would legislate to permit hudud punishments (including amputation, stoning and crucifixion).

Less attention was given at the time to the passage through the Dewan Rakyat of laws that clearly demonstrate renewed efforts to entrench authoritarian rule in Malaysia, although that is now changing. When placed alongside the authorities’ palpable disregard for existing legal protections for citizens who engage in democratic criticism and dissent, as we see in the crackdown on Malaysians who express dissatisfaction with Anwar’s conviction, it now seems that Malaysia is experiencing not just a return to rule by authoritarian laws, after a brief but perhaps illusory respite, but also rule by authoritarian lawlessness.

Three and a half years ago, to widespread amazement and acclaim, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (PM Najib) announced his government’s intention to put Malaysia more firmly on the path to democracy and respect for human rights. He proposed to do this by ending the legal fiction that Malaysia was in a state of emergency, and repealing the draconian laws that had caused Malaysia to feature so often at the lower end of international human rights rankings. To that end, amongst other legislative measures, from September 2011 to the middle of 2012 his government did the following. It repealed the Internal Security Act (“ISA”), which had permitted detention without trial and had often been used against legitimate political opponents rather than suspected terrorists, and replaced it with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (“SOSMA”), a law that substituted preventive detention with a shortened period of investigative detention followed by either a criminal trial or release of the suspect, and specifically provided that no one could be arrested solely for political belief or activity. The government liberalised print media laws by removing the requirement for annual renewal of newspaper licences that had contributed so much to self-censorship, and by restoring the power of the courts to review government decisions to revoke or suspend printing and publication licences. And it replaced the section of the Police Act that mandated police permission (rarely granted to government critics) for public gatherings with a Peaceful Assembly Act (“PAA”) that purported to recognise and regulate the constitutional right to freedom of assembly. There was also some relaxation of the laws prohibiting student politics.

In July 2012 PM Najib also promised to repeal the Sedition Act – feared by Opposition politicians, journalists, social activists and progressive lawyers because of its nebulous definition of “seditious tendency” and the government’s well-documented proclivity to use it to silence unwelcome criticism – with a more benign sounding “National Harmony Act”.

Malaysian’s initial enthusiasm for PM Najib’s reforms soon turned to disappointment and then shock and condemnation. The more hard-line Malay-supremacists within his own United Malays National Organisation (“UMNO”), and the assorted ethno-nationalist and Islamist vigilante groups that hover on the fringes of the party, lamented the loss of the ISA and openly speculated that without preventive detention and the Sedition Act, there would be no way to preserve the sanctity of Islamic institutions, the supremacy of the Malay Rulers and the sovereignty of the Malay race (the concept of Ketuanan Melayu). On the other hand, progressive and democratic voices in the Opposition PR coalition, civil society, journalists, academia, and the Malaysian Bar, protested loudly and clearly that the law reforms were a fraud: SOSMA replaced detention without trial with procedures that ensured detention without an adequate trial; the PAA placed more restrictions on public gatherings than the law it replaced; liberalisation of the media laws barely scratched the surface of the problem of direct and indirect government interference with the press; what little was revealed about the proposed National Harmony Act suggested it would be simply a rebranded Sedition Act; and the UMNO-led government apparently had no intention of removing other repressive laws such as the Official Secrets Act and the Societies Act, nor – perhaps most importantly of all – of cleaning up the deeply flawed electoral system that has ensured its own repeated return to power since independence from Britain in 1957.

Fortifying authoritarian rule in Malaysia
Amanda Whiting, Guest Contributor
20 April 2015 – New Mandala


A thuggish government is playing racial politics

Repression in Malaysia

A thuggish government is playing racial politics. Najib Razak should be dressed down

Yet it is time to call Mr Najib out on the widening gulf between spin and substance. On the economic front is a growing scandal over dubious connections and misused funds at a national investment fund, 1MDB, that Mr Najib launched and which is now burdened with $12 billion of debts. Malaysia’s human-rights record is of even greater concern. Three years ago Mr Najib scrapped a notorious colonial law, the Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial. This week he, in effect, reintroduced it. The new Prevention of Terrorism Act allows suspects to be detained indefinitely. Though it is aimed ostensibly at jihadists, lawyers and civic groups are appalled at the law’s sweep (see article).

This fits a pattern. The coalition that Mr Najib leads uses foul as well as fair means to keep the opposition down. In the most recent election, in 2013, it lost the popular vote for the first time. Yet it held on to power thanks to gerrymandered voting districts. Even after that dubious victory, it continued to persecute the charismatic opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who in February was sentenced to five years on trumped-up charges of sodomy. American criticism was perfunctory.

In the past year growing numbers of activists and opposition figures have been arrested under the Sedition Act, another colonial law aimed originally at advocates of independence. Mr Najib, who once promised to remove it from the statute book, now plans to strengthen it with harsher punishments and a clause forbidding speech that denigrates Islam.

Among those already arrested under the Sedition Act are opponents of hudud, corporal and capital punishments, including stoning to death for adultery, laid down in Islamic law. Hudud does not apply in Malaysia, but Islamists from an opposition party want it introduced in Kelantan state in the north-east. The government does not like the idea but is quietly supporting it in a cynical ploy to widen splits in Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition struggling without Mr Anwar.

By encouraging the Islamists, the government is fanning racial and religious divisions in a majority-Malay (and Muslim) country with large ethnic-Chinese and ethnic-Indian minorities. In 1969 bloody race riots nearly tore Malaysia apart. Playing racial politics could be disastrous in this multiracial country. A better and more enlightened way for Mr Najib to boost UMNO’s prospects would be for him to repair its image with ethnic Chinese and Indians.

Malaysia’s friends should be blunter about this where they have been mealy-mouthed. They should condemn Malaysia’s corruption, its decaying freedoms and its racial politics. They should call for both the Sedition Act and unlimited detention to go. Until matters improve, not only should golf be off the agenda; so too should the prime minister’s hoped-for trip to Washington this year.

Repression in Malaysia
A thuggish government is playing racial politics. Najib Razak should be dressed down
Apr 11th 2015 – The Economist


Time to call Najib out, says Economist

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak must come clean on Malaysia’s true state of affairs, The Economist said today, amid growing concerns over issues such as troubled state firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the stifling of rights and freedom in the country.

The newspaper condemned the “widening gulf between spin and substance”, adding that Najib’s portrayal of Malaysia as “a model of moderate Islam – a multicultural democracy and a beacon of tolerance” was far from the truth as the prime minister had failed to uphold his promise to repeal colonial-era laws such as the Sedition Act 1948.

Although Najib had said three years ago he would do away with the act, Dewan Rakyat on Friday pushed through several amendments to the law, which critics said would only make it more draconian.

Among others, the amendments removed criticism of the government or the administration of justice as seditious, but made promoting hatred between different religions an offence.

The changes also did away with fines, with a jail term of between three and seven years, as well as up to 20 years’ imprisonment for seditious acts or statements that lead to bodily harm and property damage.

The Economist also hit out at Putrajaya’s tabling of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota), agreeing with critics who said that Najib had “in effect” reintroduced the Internal Security Act scrapped three years ago.

Pota, which allows suspects to be detained indefinitely, is allegedly aimed at curbing terrorist threats in the country but Pakatan Rakyat leaders are concerned that the law will be used against critics of the government.

Struggling state firm 1MDB is also cause for concern, said the newspaper, as the debt-laden fund made headlines in both domestic and international media over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds.

More alarming though, it said, was Malaysia’s human rights record which under Najib has taken a hit.

The report gave the example of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who in February was sentenced to five years’ jail for sodomy, as well as the growing number of individuals arrested or investigated for sedition.

Time to call Najib out, says Economist
11 April 2015 – TMI

Sabahans Unite!
Vote Warisan Plus!


The dawn of A Better Malaysia!
Rafidah Aziz, Hannah Yeoh, Ambiga at TTDI ceramah


Mahathir in Putrajaya ceramah


What happened to 1MDB’s money? – CNBC Video
Nuclear lessons for Malaysia (Part 1) (Part 2)
BN govt is directing attention to distant past and distant future, in order to distract people from present misdeeds and poor governance
Felda - A picture is worth a thousand words
How the 1MDB Scandal Spread Across the World (WSJ)
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?