MALAYSIA: Peaceful critics charged with sedition
Opposition politicians, human rights activists, lawyers, students, academics and journalists are at risk of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment in Malaysia after an alarming rise in the use of the draconian Sedition Act in recent weeks. The law is being used to target individuals for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression
Since the beginning of August, at least eight people have been charged and are at risk of imprisonment for making so-called “seditious” statements under Malaysia’s Sedition Act. This includes five opposition politicians, a journalist and an academic who have been charged under Article 4 of the Sedition Act which criminalizes the use of seditious words and publications. Amnesty International is aware of at least 15 people charged or placed under investigation under the Act.
Those arrested or charged include journalist Susan Loone for an article she wrote which was considered seditious for its critical comments about the police. Opposition politician David Orok was said to have to have insulted Islam and the Prophet Mohamed on his social media page. Academic Dr Azmi Sharom was charged for his allegedly seditious remarks relating to a 2009 political crisis in the state of Perak. Opposition parliamentarian Teresa Kok was charged under the Sedition Act over a video that parodied the Prime Minister's concept of "1Malaysia".
Amnesty International has serious concerns about the Sedition Act, which criminalizes a wide array of acts, including those “with a tendency to excite disaffection against any Ruler or government” or to “question any matter” protected by the Constitution. Those found guilty can face three years' jail and/or fined up to 5,000 Rakyat (approximately CDN $1,300). The Sedition Act contravenes international human rights law, and violates the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed in Malaysia's Constitution.
In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak publically committed to repealing the repressive law. Two years later, that promise has not been fulfilled.
Please send a courteous letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
- Insist that his government immediately ends the use of the Sedition Act to criminalize peaceful dissent.
- Ask him to drop charges against all those currently accused of “sedition” solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
- Urge the immediate and unconditional release all those who have been detained or imprisoned under the Sedition Act solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
- If you wish, you could add a call to repeal the Sedition Act, and to review and amend all other laws which restrict the right to freedom of expression, in strict compliance with international human rights law and standards.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administration Centre
Fax: 011 603 8888 3444
Please send a copy to
Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Tan Sri Hasmy Agam
11th Floor, Menara TH Perdana,
Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Fax: +60 (0)3 2612 5620
Her Excellency Hayati Binti Ismail Salutation: Your Excellency
High Commissioner for Malaysia
High Commission of Malaysia
60 Boteler Street
Fax: 613 2415214
Following are the eight people known to have been charged under the Sedition Act in recent months and at risk of imprisonment.
Wan Ji Wan Hussin, a Muslim preacher, was charged under Article 4(1)(c) on 10 September for allegedly insulting the monarchy in Shah Alam, Selangor state.
Chow Mun Fai, a site supervisor and opposition activist, was charged under Article 4(1)(b) on 9 September for allegedly posting comments insulting to Malay people on his Facebook page. He is also facing charges under Section 231(1)(a) of the Communication and Multimedia Act.
Student Ali Abdul Jalil was charged on 8 September under Article 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for posting “seditious” comments on Facebook on 21 January and again on 18 August – including comments mocking the Johor sultanate and calling for the state monarchy to be abolished. He is currently in detention in Sungai Buloh prison, Selangor state and is facing multiple charges under the Sedition Act.
David Orok, an opposition politician from Sabah state, was charged under Article 4(1)(c) on 3 September for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohamed on his social media page on 4 June.
Dr Azmi Sharom, an academic from the University of Malaya, was charged with sedition on 2 September under Sections 4(1)(b) and 4(1)(c) for his alleged seditious remarks relating to the 2009 political crisis in state of Perak published by an online news portal on 14 August 2014.
N. Surendran, an opposition member of parliament for Padang Serai and leading human rights lawyer, was charged under Article 4(1)(b) on 19 August 2014 for criticizing the Court of Appeal ruling on 7 March which found Anwar Ibrahim guilty of “sodomy”. He was charged again on 28 August under Article (4(1)(c) for his comments in a YouTube video in which he allegedly criticized the prime minister for mounting a political conspiracy against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Khalid Samad, an opposition member of parliament for Shah Alam, Selangor state, was charged under Article 4(1)(b) on 28 August over remarks made on 17 June in which he allegedly questioned the authority of the Selangor Sultan.
Penang assemblyman RSN Rayer from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) was arrested and charged with sedition on 27 August after remarking “UMNO Celaka” (“Damn UMNO”) during a state assembly meeting. UMNO (the United Malays National Organization) is the largest party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.