Amend/Abolish Suppressive Laws to Empower Freedom of Expression

Proposer:

Lew Guan Xi

Affiliations:

Individual

Policy Code:

2a Freedom of Expression

Problem Statement / Issue:

Based on the World Press Freedom Index 2021, Malaysia has dropped 18 ranks, from 101 in 2020 to 119 in 2021 out of 180, which is a new low according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). IFJ also stated that this situation can be justified by the Covid-19 pandemic, where the Emergency Ordinance 2021 containing the anti-fake news law further suppressed freedom of expression. This law criminalises those who “by any means, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public”. This line is highly arbitrary and vague which grants the government the right to accuse any expression as “likely to cause fear or alarm to the public”. Some other current laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, Official Secrets Act 1972, and Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 can also be subjected to the same problem.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

Freedom of expression is important in any democracy as it grants space for diverse opinions to compete for attention. Empowering social responsibility should not be the excuse for the government to suppress critical viewpoints in fulfilling their political agenda.

Proposal of Solution and Call to Action:

Anti-fake news law and Sedition Act 1948 should be abolished to stop suppressing freedom of expression. Amendments should be made on Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Official Secrets Act 1972, and Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 by adding in clearer guideline on what are allowed and what are prohibited. For example, in Communication and Multimedia Act 1998, which words and phrases can be considered as offensive should be added in to be more specific and less arbitrary. The Malaysian Media Council should also be formed to allow self-regulation of the media to empower press freedom and social responsibility. I hereby urge all media practitioners to stand up and start publishing content related to what is stated above to raise public awareness and push the government to apply changes to current policies.

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