Currently, the Sedition Act criminalizes speeches, acts and publications which is seditious or having “seditious tendency”, a term which broadly covers two types of intended effects: (a) hatred, contempt, dissatisfaction against the state, including over legal and policy matters; (b) ill-will and hostility between different races or classes.
Protection of the state against hatred, contempt and dissatisfaction by her citizens of a treasonous nature have been amply provided for by various provisions in the Penal Code and must take a back seat after citizens’ rights to legitimate criticism and grievance related to public affairs. Otherwise, our democracy will be hollow and liberties vanished. Such threat is unfortunately real under the Sedition Act as we witness now the second case within a month whereby the draconian act is to be used against bloggers. While July’s victim was Raja Petra Kamarudin, the editor of the influential Malaysia Today news site; the August pick is Wee Ming Chee, a 24-years-old who wrote a rap song “I love my country, Negarakuku” with the national anthem as its chorus.
As with the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), the Sedition Act must go. It is time for civil society to act together as the government is stepping up its harassment of concerned citizens online on the eve of general elections.
To protect citizens and non-citizens against the propagation and incitement of hatred and violence, we call for the enactment of a narrowly defined anti-hatred law, which automatically repeals the Sedition Act and whose sole purpose is to protect citizens and non-citizens from verbal or physical harms merely on the ground of his/her membership of ethnic or religious group, gender, sexuality, belief or lifestyle. To ensure that the new law does not curb legitimate dialogue, discourse and debate, including on ethnicity, faith, ideology and state institutions, the legislation must be drafted with full consultation and the participation of civil society and the general public, under a Parliamentary Select Committee. Malaysians will then be protected from both hate crimes and the infringements of freedom of speech that are occurring under the Sedition Act.
Joint statement by:
Civil Rights Committee – Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Women’s Development Collective (WDC)
Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)