SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH are extremely disappointed and appalled with the Federal Court decision maintaining that the Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 is constitutional. Sadly, by not recognizing that the Sedition Act as unconstitutional, the country’s judicial system has allowed the government and police to misuse the Sedition Act, thereby legitimising serious human rights violations against freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia.
Dr. Azmi Sharom was charged under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1) (c) of the Sedition Act 1948. He was charged over his professional comments in a news article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor Impasse, Pakatan told”. On 17 September, Dr. Azmi Sharom filed court application to challenge the constitutionality of Section 4 of the Sedition Act which he said that, Article 4 was unconstitutional and violated Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. If convicted, he will face a maximum fine RM 5000, or 3 years jail or both.
The Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act, covers the arrangement of an activity, which would have “a seditious tendency”. It likewise covers speech and the printing, publishing and distribution, reproduction or importation of seditious materials. The burden of proof lies on the person who has in their possession articles that are deemed seditious.
Since the beginning of 2014, at least 78 individuals including Activists, cartoonist, politicians, students, journalists and academicians have been investigated or charged under the Sedition Act.3 Furthermore, the Home Ministry in its official reply in Parliament recently, has indicated that between 2008 and 2015, the government has investigated 409 cases under the Sedition Act. Historically, the Sedition Act has been invoked against those critical of the government.
The Sedition Act is against fundamental human rights standards and violates one of the most important elements of human rights- freedom of opinion and expression. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UN Human Rights Committee, emphasizes the importance of freedom of speech and opinion, maintaining that the freedom of opinion and expression are the foundation for every free and democratic society and is a necessary condition for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are in return, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.
SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH strongly condemn the Government of Malaysia in its failure to respect freedoms of opinion and expression. The Government has obligations to protect freedom of speech, opinion and expression of its citizens but unfortunately, in Malaysia, the government has been the main violator of freedom of opinion and expression and the judiciary lacks proper check and balance in defending justice and rights of the people. In recent days we have seen a widespread abuse of police and state powers to crackdown on fundamental liberties and human rights, where Malaysia has descended to the level of a Police State, ruled by law, rather than upholding the rule of law.
SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH call upon the government to drop charges against all those charged so far under the Sedition Act, and to stop any further arrests and investigations under the Sedition Act and to abolish the Sedition Act with immediate effect.
For further information please contact,
Dr. Yolanda Augustin, Board of Trustees; Lead Coordinator, SUARAM International firstname.lastname@example.org , +44 (0) 7894319056
Colin Rajah, President of Global Bersih