LAWS DESIGNED TO SILENCE: THE GLOBAL CRACKDOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

LAWS DESIGNED TO SILENCE: THE GLOBAL CRACKDOWN ON CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

Civil society organisations and human rights defenders around the world who speak out against unjust laws and government practices, challenge public opinion or those in power, and demand justice, dignity and freedom, are being increasingly targeted. In this context, an alarming global trend has surfaced in which states are introducing and using laws to interfere with the right to freedom of association and to hamper the work of civil society organizations and individuals who participate in them. This report shows how this phenomenon is widespread and increasing in all regions.

The report noted that forming associations in Malaysia is highly restricted. Even though the Societies Act dates back to 1966, it is still in use. The Act introduced vaguely worded and burdensome requirements for registration, which allow authorities to selectively inhibit the work of “unwelcome” associations.

In recent years, several organizations have been either arbitrarily denied registration or declared unlawful under the Act. In 2014, two NGO coalitions, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs  in the UPR Process  (COMANGO) and Negara-Ku, were declared unlawful by the Home Ministry for allegedly lacking official registration but continue to be allowed to operate. In the case of COMANGO the cited reason was for having several “non-Islamic” members. Similarly, a coalition of over 80 Malaysian NGOs, Negara-Ku, was declared illegal by the former Home Minister as it was not officially registered.

Due to the criminalisation of same-sex sexual acts, Malaysian NGO legislation allows the authorities to deny registration of any organisation which is likely to “pursue unlawful purposes” or “go against public morals”

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