Malaysia’s Sedition Act is far more restrictive than similar laws in other Commonwealth countries, the American Bar Association Centre for Human Rights claimed in a statement today.
The centre said it had been analysing the controversial act in response to concerns that it was allegedly being used to silence government critics, including human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen and political cartoonist Zunar.
“Sedition is an offence which originated in the UK but the country has since abolished it,” said the centre.
“Australia followed suit (in abolishing its sedition law), the US has no federal sedition law, and the highest courts in Canada, India and South Africa have significantly limited the application of their countries’ sedition laws,” it added.
The sedition act in the latter three countries, the centre explained, required the offender to directly incite individuals to violence against the state.
“(Malaysia’s) Sedition Act does not adequately protect the right to freedom of expression granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is far too broad to meet the international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “ the centre stated.
The centre further claimed that Malaysia’s Sedition Act did not serve a legitimate purpose and stifled debate on matters of public interest.
It also cited the UN Human Rights Committee which said that 'extreme care' must be taken to ensure sedition laws are not used to withhold public information that did not harm national security or to prosecute those who disseminated such information.