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Proposed cyber sedition law is undemocratic

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned with Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s references to a new law that will be introduced to govern sedition in cyberspace.

The Home Minister reportedly said that the new law would be based on the existing Sedition Act (1948) and would assist in determining the kind of cyber dissent that can be prosecuted.

CIJ finds this highly disturbing since the much-abused existing law has already been applied in the online medium, as evidenced in the charging of top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and his peers.

Furthermore, the government’s formulation of this new sedition law, targeted at freedom of expression in the online sphere, seems like a deliberate act to censor the Internet.

 

This does not bode with the “no Internet censorship” promise, which was laid out in the Bill of Guarantees of the Multimedia Super Corridor.

The Sedition Act is a draconian, antiquated concept that poses a serious threat on the freedom of expression guaranteed in the federal constitution.

In the interest of democracy and the attendant freedom of expression, the federal government should be working to abolish the existing law instead of drafting new ones to assist in the prosecution of ”seditious” online content.

Any measures taken to curb the already limited freedom of expression in Malaysia only demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to engage in genuine public discourse and to be held publicly accountable.

CIJ is also extremely concerned at the manner in which this new law is being introduced. It has been referred to as “guidelines”, “regulations” and now, a “cyber sedition bill”, which will be tabled to the cabinet on Dec 3.

In a democracy, anything that affects the fundamental freedoms in the federal constitution, including the drafting of laws, should be open to comment and input should be taken from all interested parties. Yet there was little information and no public consultation on this matter.

CIJ therefore calls on the government to be open and transparent in the formulation of new laws and to refrain from enacting this “cyber sedition bill” or any legislation that will further dent the freedom of expression in Malaysia.

                    

The writer is programme officer for CIJ

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