MALAYSIA: ACQUITTAL OF GOVERNMENT CRITICS MUST BE THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS ABOLITION OF SEDITION ACT

MALAYSIA: ACQUITTAL OF GOVERNMENT CRITICS MUST BE THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS ABOLITION OF SEDITION ACT

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA
PRESS STATEMENT
31 JULY 2018

Amnesty International Malaysia lauds the Malaysian Session Court for the acquittal of political cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar), Federal lawmaker R. Sivarasa and civil rights lawyer N. Surendran of their long-standing sedition charges yesterday.

“It is commendable to see such significant actions taken by the Attorney General’s Chambers in dropping the chargers against these three individuals especially Zunar whose case grabbed the attention of Amnesty International and was featured globally in Amnesty International’s campaigning,” said Gwen Lee, Interim Executive Director, Amnesty International Malaysia.

“The Attorney General’s Chambers must now withdraw all charges against all other individuals facing sedition charges, and ensure that no one further is arrested, investigated or charged under its provisions.”

The acquittal of the three individuals comes after a string of Sedition Act charges were withdrawn since the beginning of the year beginning with the acquittal of activist Adam Adli in February, recently elected Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad in June and Pasir Gudang Parliament Member Hassan Abdul Karim four days ago.

“It is high time that this archaic law is put away for good. The Malaysian government must now act to abolish the Sedition Act, the Anti-Fake News Act and other restrictive laws. We hope the Malaysian government will seize this opportunity to establish the right to freedom of expression for all Malaysians as a fundamental human right,” added Gwen Lee.

Background

Cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar) was charged with nine sedition charges on April 3, 2015 for allegedly insulting the judiciary in tweets made in relation to then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction in his second sodomy case.

N. Surendran, was the first of the duo to be charged and claim trial on August 19, 2014, for releasing an allegedly seditious press statement titled “Court of Appeal’s Fitnah 2 written judgment is flawed, defensive and insupportable”, related to the same case.

R. Sivarasa was charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948 for his speech during the 2015 “Kita Lawan” rally in which he was said to have criticised the judiciary over Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment for the aforementioned case.

Those found guilty under the Sedition Act can face between three to 20 years in jail. Amnesty International has long expressed concerns about the law, which criminalizes a wide array of acts. The law does not comply with international human rights law, and in particular violates the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also guaranteed in Article 10 of Malaysia’s Constitution.

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