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CIJ moots full commitment to human rights to safeguard Malaysians’ freedom of speech

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said the government should ratify outstanding international human rights treaties to which Malaysia has committed, for the aim of strengthening freedom of expression and the media, combating disinformation and hate speech, and providing better data and digital protection.

During the launch of the report titled “A Report on the State of Freedom of Expression in Malaysia 2023”, CIJ executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu noted that Malaysia has ratified only three out of nine international human rights treaties.

“Ratify all outstanding international human rights treaties and their optional protocols,” the CIJ said.

The report also called on the government to stop the censorship and banning of arts and artistic performances and to decriminalise defamation.

The report said that the government should amend or repeal: Film Censorship Act 2002, National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) Act 1981, Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972, Peaceful Assembly Act 2019, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Sedition Act 1948, Sections 211 and 233 Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998, Section 114A of the Evidence Act (Amendment) (No.2) 2012, and Sections 203A, 298A, 500, 504, and 505(b) of the Penal Code.

While reforms are underway, there should be a moratorium on the above list of laws, it added.

For media freedom, the report recommended the creation of an environment that allows the independence of media to ensure there will be no negative repercussions for carrying out reporting duties.

“Drop all investigations and pledge to stop all future acts of intimidation and adverse actions against the media and journalists,” the report said.

It also called for the following laws to be reviewed, repealed, or amended in line with allowing for the freedom of expression: OSA, PPPA, Sedition Act 1948, and Section 233 of the CMA.

The Malaysian Media Council must also remain an independent and self-regulatory body without need for the government’s intervention in decision-making, it said.

To combat disinformation and hate speech, it suggested the formation of a multistakeholder committee to determine causes of hate speech and preventative measures.

The government may also focus on providing the public with accurate information to counter any alleged dis/misinformation and move away from disproportionately punitive reactions, it added.

As for providing better data and digital protection, it said the government can establish an independent regulator to ensure transparency under data laws while preventing abuse by the state.

“Amend the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010 to require companies to disclose data breach policies, including commitments to notify affected individuals about the nature of breaches and any remedial measures the companies undertake to ensure accountability for such breaches,” it said.

The annual CIJ report was launched today in accordance with Human Rights Day, which is celebrated every year on December 10 to mark the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

The report aims to objectively outline the progress and shortcomings from this year regarding the freedom of expression environment in Malaysia using data from CIJ’s monitoring efforts.