Authorities continue to show blatant disregard for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly

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The Malaysian government must stop its most recent campaign of harassment and criminal investigation of a number of peaceful critics through the use of repressive laws, including the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act, Amnesty International has said.

Authorities continue to show blatant disregard for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
The Malaysian government must stop its most recent campaign of harassment and criminal investigation of peaceful critics through the use of repressive laws, including the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act.

Police must immediately release Malaysian social media user Masyhur Abdullah, who was arrested on 25 May 2016 and has been detained for two days to “assist with investigations” pertaining to a Twitter post criticising the Johor state’s football team and its manager, who is the crown prince of Johor.

Masyhur Abdullah was hauled up under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which criminalises the “improper use of network facilities or network person to transmit any communication that is deemed to and would cause annoyance to another person”.

The investigation of Nadzira Yaakop, wife of student activist Khalid Ismath, must also be halted. Nadzira Yaakop, who was questioned on 26 May 2016, is among several activists that have been summoned under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for participating in the Solidarity with Khalid Ismath rally.

The peaceful rally was held in October 2015 in support of Khalid Ismath, who was charged with 11 counts under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and three counts under the Sedition Act 1948 for social media postings criticising the Johor state monarchy and the Malaysian police. Following his arrest, he was subjected to 22 days in detention and alleged ill-treatment.

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The investigation and arrest of individuals for peaceful social media postings and solidarity gatherings are part of a widening crackdown by the Malaysian government on freedom of expression and human rights more generally to silence dissent.

The use of repressive laws against critics creates an extremely harmful effect on freedom of expression in Malaysia whereby opposition politicians, activists and other persons do not know when and for what they can be arrested, investigated or charged.

The human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They include the right of every individual to peacefully express their ideas on issues that are important to them, exchange ideas, to peacefully protest and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas without fear.

Since the general election in 2013, Malaysia has seen an increase in state policing of speech and in the public sphere. The Sedition Act, a relic of colonial times, has become the Malaysian government’s most frequently used tool to harass, prosecute and detain peaceful critics.

In recent years the laws utilised by the authorities have grown in variety to include the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, various Penal Code offences, and most recently, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Amnesty International calls on the Malaysian government to end its blatant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful public assembly. The organisation also urges the government to take immediate steps to repeal or amend repressive laws including the Sedition Act 1948, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 so as to bring them into line with international human rights law and standards.

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Hakimi Abdul Jabar
5 Jun 2016 11.30am

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