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Protect freedom of speech and expression, SUHAKAM urges

Graphic: Malaysians walk through a market in Kuala Lumpur

SUHAKAM has expressed concern at the actions of police using specific laws against activists, politicians, journalists and human rights defenders.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) wishes to express its concerns on the actions by the police using specific laws against activists, politicians, journalists and human rights defenders for exercising their freedom of expression.

SUHAKAM is of the view that the enjoyment of freedom of expression should only be restricted as provided by the law to the extent necessary and proportionate to achieve legitimate aims such as national security and public order.


Anyone exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression should not be made to suffer or be fearful of retaliation or intimidation.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

Restrictive laws which are essential for political stability, racial harmony, and economic prosperity cannot be used as tools to restrict any political contestation and people's mobilisation against it.

SUHAKAM notes that Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) and laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and Section 504 and 505 of the Penal Code and The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) are being used to censor, intimidate, silence critics and curtail freedom of expression and speech.

SUHAKAM is concerned with the ongoing use of restrictive laws, which are not in line with human rights principles as expounded in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia on freedom of opinion and expression. Anyone exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression should not be made to suffer or be fearful of retaliation or intimidation.

Therefore, SUHAKAM calls for the Government to:

  • Repeal the Sedition Act 1948 without further delay and address the disproportionality in the presumption of "seditious tendency".
  • Address "hate speech" only as an exception to freedom of speech based on the objective criteria rooted in Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 10(1) Federal Constitution. Only "hate speech" defined and determined as incitement to race, religious or national hatred and war should be prohibited. At the same time, freedom of speech should be restricted only to the extent necessary and proportionate to fulfil the legitimate aims of respect for the reputation of others and for protection of national security, public order, public morality, as prescribed in the law.
  • End the suppression of dissent now being mounted against critical voices or the need to haul them up for questioning.

SUHAKAM wishes to remind the Government on its duty and responsibility to protect the people's right to free speech, in line with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia which guarantees Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, as a democratic nation should be.

Source: Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

Date: 23 June 2020


Image credits

  1. Malaysians walk through a market in Kuala Lumpur - Photo by Phil Lees, Flickr CC