Malaysia: Drop alarming investigations of peaceful expression and assembly

Responding to news that lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is due to be questioned by the Royal Police of Malaysia for her involvement in organising a peaceful protest on 29 February 2020, and that three other individuals are under investigation for insulting the King, Preethi Bhardwaj, Interim Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said:

“Investigations being conducted against Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and three others must be dropped immediately. This development is deeply alarming, especially as a new government in Malaysia has only just been sworn in. . Malaysian citizens should never be criminalised simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Malaysian authorities have time and time again used laws such as the Penal Code, the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), and the Sedition Act to target peaceful protestors. Similarly, student activist Wong Yan Ke was recently charged under the Penal Code for peacefully protesting at the University of Malaya. These laws should not be used to crack down on peaceful critics once again.

We strongly urge the new government to renew their commitment to their international human rights obligations and repeal oppressive laws that limit freedom of expression and assembly. The government is also urged to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights instruments, in order to bring Malaysia closer to complying with international standards.”

Background

An assembly organised via social media was held on 29 February 2020 in Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur to protest the appointment of the new Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Dato Muhyiddin Yassin by the King. This comes after days of political uncertainty after the previous Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned from the post.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri was singled out by the police as the organiser of the protest. She is currently being investigated under Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act which defines the offence of attempt to commit seditious act, and Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act which defines the offence of improper use of network facilities.

Three other individuals are also being investigated under the laws stated above for allegedly insulting the King on social media, according to reports. The reports also say that one of them has been arrested.