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Friday, 3 April 2015

Suhakam deplores use of sedition law

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is "appalled" by the continued use of the Sedition Act 1948 and urged the Putrajaya to uphold constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

In a strongly worded press release last night, Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said that the commission views with great concern that the law is increasingly used on politicians, activists and even media personnel.

"The recent arrests have escalated alarmingly in spite of our recent call on the authorities to desist from such actions as well as to reconsider the proportionality and necessity for such arrests.

"The Commission is also appalled at the manner in which these arrests have been made, which appears to be tantamount to harassment and intimidation by the authorities and in breach of the rule of law," he said.

On the arrest of five editors from The Malaysian Insider and The Edge media group for sedition, Hasmy said this was a clear violation of Malaysia's obligations under international human rights law.

Global obligations

In view of this, Hasmy said Suhakam wants the government to take steps towards guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly, including media freedom, in line with the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

"The Commission also reiterates its well-known position on the Sedition Act and recommends that, consistent with the government's commendable advocacy of moderation at the global level, it repeal this repressive and undemocratic domestic legislation, which directly violates the right to freedom of expression.

"The Commission would like to further state that it fully supports the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully, to express their civil and/or political views without fear of arrest or detention, including the responsible exchange of opinions on social media."

Urging the government to uphold its commitment to these freedoms, Suhakam said it must do so to ensure the effective enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Malaysia.

TMI managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa news editor Amin Iskandar and features and analysis editor, Zulkifli Sulong as well as the portal's chief executive Jahabar Sadiq and The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat were arrested earlier this week.

Their arrest was linked to a TMI report claiming the Conference of Rulers rejected the hudud. The keeper of rulers' seal however denied this.

They are being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 and Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948.

Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 concerns the improper use of network facilities or network service, which is punishable with a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment up to a year or both.

Section 4 concerns the uttering, publication, importing of seditious material or committing acts that have seditious tendency, which is punishable with a fine of up to RM5,000 or imprisonment up to three years or both.

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