Press Statement

Arrest of allegedly “insulting” social media posts made viral tantamount to mob rule

9 January 2019

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) views with extreme concern the recent arrests of three persons by the police under the Sedition Act 1948 for alleged “insulting” social media comments regarding the YDP Agong’s recent resignation.

The Sedition Act is a draconian piece of legislation that was heavily opposed by the then Pakatan Harapan coalition when they were in the opposition. It is therefore shocking that in Malaysia Baharu, this law is still being used by the police to crackdown on mere social media comments that are not criminal in nature.

This legislation is a leftover legacy from the British Empire that clearly has no place in Malaysia, and all the more so in Malaysia Baharu. The offences in the Sedition Act are extremely vague, open to exaggerated interpretation and therefore disproportionately restrict freedom of speech, a right guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

These arrests are reminiscent of a Barisan Nasional government style of intolerance towards freedom of speech, especially for allegedly “insulting” comments on social media where the authorities seem quick to react to mobs on social media demanding actions be taken against certain posts. The authorities must be more discerning when reacting to viral messages on social media especially if the alleged “insulting” post has been exaggerated; to do so would tantamount to mob rule.

The role of the police is to maintain public order and prevent crimes, not to be the arbiter of what is an acceptable speech or post on social media. The police must be able to differentiate between impolite or even “insulting” remarks that are not criminal in nature. It should only be an offence if the remarks were threatening or inciting violence or a crime and therefore ought to be investigated under the Penal Code.

We therefore call for the authorities to cease these needless arrests and investigations pertaining to mere social media comments. The authorities must be able to prioritise their resources to tackle genuine criminal matters, and not get involved in petty politically-motivated issues that should not be their concern.

Released by:

Latheefa Koya

Executive Director

Lawyers for Liberty