Sunday, June 20, 2021
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Civil Society To Malaysian Government: Abandon All Attempts To Throttle Online Free Speech


On June 10, at Rights
Con 2021
, Access Now joined ARTICLE 19,
CIVICUS, and the Centre for Independent Journalism to demand
the Malaysian government
abandon all attempts
to throttle freedom of expression online, and overturn any
plans to reinforce previous administrations’ archaic
censorship laws.

“People in Malaysia have had enough
of this hackneyed playbook,” said Dhevy
Sivaprakasam, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access
Now
. “They want and deserve the right to freely
express themselves. We watched as a previous iteration of
this repressive ‘fake news’ law was overturned by the
last administration after civil society pressure. This time,
we’ll ensure history repeats.”

Authorities have
launched a systematic campaign to silence critical or
dissenting voices, including through the enactment of the
Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance
concerning so-called “fake news,” and continued abuse of
existing provisions relating to defamation and national
security in the Penal Code; as well as the laws on
sedition, contempt of court, public assembly and the
Communications and Multimedia Act.

At a
RightsCon press briefing, New
government, old tactics: laws abused to throttle online
expression in Malaysia
, Wathshlah Naidu
from the Centre for Independent Journalism, Edmund Bon, a
human rights lawyer, Fahmi Reza, an artist and political
cartoonist, and Steven Gan from independent media outlet
Malaysiakini — and target of ongoing
government harassment
— outlined the
backsliding of free speech protections, and highlighted the
most problematic developments in the country.

Through
a joint
statement
, the coalition calls on the
government of Malaysia to:

  • Repeal Emergency
    (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021
    and revoke the
    Emergency Declaration;
  • Ensure the timely and
    regular dissemination of accurate information regarding
    COVID-19 and engage in public awareness campaigns and other
    efforts to promote media and digital literacy and to combat
    misinformation;
  • Initiate a program of legislative
    reform to bring its legal framework in line with
    Malaysia’s international human rights
    obligations;
  • Immediately drop investigations into
    individuals for legitimately exercising their rights to free
    expression and information;
  • Cease abuse of the legal
    system to harass, silence, and obstruct individuals
    exercising their rights to free expression and information;
    and
  • Ratify the International Covenant on Civil
    and Political
    Rights
    .

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