PETALING JAYA (Aug 13, 2013): For a law that is supposed to be on its way out, the Sedition Act 1948 is still actively used, most recently on a Facebook user who allegedly insulted police, on top of a slew of other cases that saw internet users, politicians and NGO members being hauled up by the police.
The futility of such actions, especially on internet users, appears to be lost on the authorities.
As Lawyers for Liberty founder Eric Paulsen advised: “The nature of the internet is such that if anybody goes into the internet looking for so-called ‘seditious statements’, they will find an abundance of them.”
Calling sedition “an outdated concept, a relic from the British empire with no relevance to modern society”, Paulsen said the Sedition Act is too widely interpreted, especially in a “borderless, social media-driven world”.
Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo shared the same sentiments, stressing the people’s right to criticise the government as a democratic norm, “and those in authority should not have to hide from criticism by using the Sedition Act”.
“Public discourse can get vigorous and robust from time to time. Laws cannot be geared to the most sensitive person in the country. If that is the case, we will not be able to say almost anything at all,” Khoo said.
As for statements allegedly insulting religion, which appear to have escalated online, provisions under the Penal Code allow for the perpetrator to be investigated without invoking the Sedition Act, he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak promised last July that the Sedition Act would be repealed and a new law more in keeping with present times would replace it this year.
Among those who were recently charged under the law are PKR vice-president Tian Chua, PAS leader Tamrin Ghafar, Anything But Umno (ABU) activist Haris Ibrahim, Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia president Safwan Anang and student activist Adam Adli.
Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel is also under investigation.
By Dorothy Cheng, The Sun Daily