Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled that the draconian Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 was again used against human rights defender and lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri.
These laws undermine freedom of expression and opinion, something that the new Pakatan Harapan led alternative government, which successfully managed to end the about six-decade rule of the Umno-led government, had committed to repeal.
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri was called in for questioning by the police at the Brickfields District Police Headquarters at 4.00pm on 1 July 2018 (Malaysiakini, 10 July 2018)
Malaysians voted in the new government, and when it came into power, it would have been possible and easy to immediately impose a moratorium on the use of draconian legislation like the Sedition Act 1948, pending repeal.
The Sedition Act 1948, a law enacted by the British colonial government, makes it an offence to say or do anything that has a ‘seditious tendency’, among other things, that may “excite disaffection against any ruler or against any government”. He
Hence the right to even highlight alleged wrongdoings or promote an opinion (whether it is good or bad is irrelevant) on how reform should be done, makes a person a possible victim of the Sedition Act.
“…The Sedition Act 1948 is unacceptable and repugnant to the rule of law for the further reasons that it creates offences arising from an act, speech, words, publication or other thing that are defined as having ‘seditious tendencies’ which are imprecise and without clear boundaries. Unlike other criminal offences, the offence of sedition does not require mens rea or the element of intent; the correctness of what is done, or the truth of what is said, printed or published is disregarded and not a defence to the offence…” – Malaysian Bar Resolution
Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
Section 233 makes any communication over the internet, being “any comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person” an offence.
“…it is just too broad and vague, and is open to abuse. For example, the highlighting of violation of human rights or laws, or facts connected to alleged violations of rights/laws, would likely ‘annoy’ or even ‘harass’ the wrongdoer, and for the alleged wrongdoer, it could also be said to be ‘menacing and offensive’. This should never be considered an offence… As such, this section deters even the highlighting of human rights abuses, breaches of law and even possible government wrongdoing. This section even deters the sharing of such relevant and important facts, and/or opinions over the internet…” – Malaysian Bar Resolution
Madpet calls for the immediate discontinuation of further investigation or prosecution of Fadiah Nadwa Fikri.
Madpet also calls for the immediate announcement of the discontinuation of further action against all those currently being investigated under the Sedition Act, Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and other similar draconian legislation.
Madpet urges the government to impose a moratorium on any future investigations under Sedition Act and other similar laws.
Madpet calls on Malaysia to immediately repeal the Sedition Act and sections in any law that are against freedom of expression and opinion like Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
There is really no justification to delay or procrastinate on the repeal of bad laws on grounds like “further study and review” – an excuse often advanced by the past government that Malaysians voted out.
Repeal should reasonably and justly be done now, during the first sitting of Parliament.
Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.