[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Wednesday called on Malaysian authorities [statement] to cease arrests and prosecutions under the country’s 1948 Sedition Act, a law that limits free speech and freedom of expression. Rupert Colville, OHCHR spokesperson, expressed concern about the recent increase in the use of this act to “arrest and prosecute people for their peaceful expression of opinion in Malaysia.” He went on to call the law “overly broad,” stating [UN News Centre report] that it does not provide clearly defined criteria for sedition. He urged the government to initiate a review of the act and to repeal or amend it, saying that the office fear that the authorities in Malaysia are applying the Sedition Act arbitrarily to silence critical voices.
Earlier this month Malaysian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] University of Malay law professor Azmi Sharom with sedition for his opinion on a political crisis that occurred five years ago. Last month the lawyer representing Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the leader of Malaysia’s strongest governmental opposition group [party website, in Malay], was charged with sedition because of a written statement he issued acting as Anwar’s legal counsel. The charges came after a court overturned [JURIST report] Anwar’s acquittal on sodomy charges and sentenced him to five years in prison. In 2012 Prime Minister Najib Razak announced [JURIST report] he would repeal the 1948 sedition law to protect freedom of speech in the country, a proclamation the UN responded [JURIST report] to with praise.