KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 ― Thirty international rights groups have demanded Putrajaya review laws that affect freedom of expression, including repealing those that place “unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions” against it.
The groups admitted that while there can be limits on freedom of expression, they must be clearly defined and lawful, instead of arbitrary and excessive.
“The limits imposed on freedom of expression must be legitimate. They must be clearly defined and provided by law, and must be the least restrictive form of limit that is available,” the groups said in a statement yesterday.
“Instead, what we have seen in Malaysia is authorities arbitrarily imposing their own limits on freedom of expression, and taking excessive and harsh measures to curb free speech.”
The groups urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to declare his support for freedom of expression, and abolish the Sedition Act to fulfil his previous promise.
They also wanted Najib to express his support for media freedom, and demonstrate that his administration is open to criticism, in addition to encouraging discussion and dialogue instead of silencing dissent.
Putrajaya previously pledged to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 that critics say is used to stifle political opposition and dissent, but later announced in November last year that it will be retained and expanded instead.
In its last session, the Parliament pushed through amendments to the Sedition Act, after they were heavily debated and subjected to bloc votes hours past midnight.
The statement addressed to Najib, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was signed by groups that included those from countries such as Turkey, Canada, Albania, Belarus and the West African region.
It was also signed by local groups Centre for Independent Journalism, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Projek Dialog and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).