Satire is Not a Crime

By:

Bilqis Hijjas

Affiliations:

ReformARTsi

Policy Code:

2a Freedom of Expression

Problem Statement:

Local artists and activists like graphic artist Fahmi Reza and cartoonist Zunar continue to be hounded and oppressed by the Malaysian state for exercising their freedom of expression in cartoons, political caricatures, and even Spotify playlists.

The government uses mechanisms like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) to crack down on political dissent, including satire, on the grounds that it is destabilising to Malaysian society. These mechanisms are overly broad and can be imposed arbitrarily; for example Section 233 of the CMA can penalise comments that cause any person’s annoyance.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

Artistic satires and parody are a time-honoured method used by citizens to call out, make fun of, or express an opinion with creativity and humour about more powerful individuals and oppressive states. They do not constitute sedition or fake news, and should be a protected form of free speech.

Proposal of Solution:

S. 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998, the Sedition Act 1948, and S. 504 and 505(b) of the Penal Code should be removed/replaced entirely. If this is impossible, the Acts should be amended to explicitly state that political satire and parody is exempt from penalties imposed by the Act.

Additional Information:

Translation

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