Lawyers for Liberty refer to the criminal charges that were levelled against R Sri Sanjeevan at the Sessions Court on 5 June for purportedly spreading “false communication” regarding the police.
It is disturbing that Section 233(1)(a) is still being used by the authorities despite its detrimental impact on freedom of speech.
Apart from the charges upon Sanjeevan, a director of NGO C4, Cynthia Gabriel, is also currently being investigated under the same provision, as well as the equally oppressive Sedition Act, over a statement that she had issued.
The government must uphold freedom of speech, a right enshrined under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
The right to free speech is especially crucial for the protection of anyone expressing discontent or criticism towards the authorities, as freedom of speech is the cornerstone of a democracy. It must be jealously guarded, and any attempt to infringe on this fundamental right must be strongly opposed.
The unfortunate resurgence of the use of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Sedition Act is a painful reminder of the failure of the previous Pakatan Harapan to fulfil its promise to amend the Communications and Multimedia Act or repeal the Sedition Act and other draconian acts.
These tools of oppression could have been easily dismantled had the PH government shown the political will to carry out its own manifesto promises. Its failure to do so has again put us at risk of falling victim to unjust laws.
We urge the relevant authorities to stop using draconian acts to clamp down on free speech and harass dissenters. The government too must remember that it has a duty to uphold the Constitution and all the fundamental rights enshrined in it, including the right of all Malaysians to free speech.
Zaid Malek is coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty