[JURIST] A group of independent experts from the UN Human Rights Council once again urged the Malaysian government on Wednesday to abolish [press release] the Sedition Act of 1948 after receiving reports of increasing criminalization of government critics. UN Human Rights Council experts claim that they have received reports of 23 recent cases of persons charged with publishing what the Malaysian government would consider unfavorable information, as defined by the Sedition Act, through the Internet [JURIST feature], a new voice for activists. Violators of the act include members of parliament, lawyers, journalists, academics, human rights defenders and politicians. Human rights activists claim the act limits free expression and peaceful assembly. Critics such as Human Rights Watch, also argue that the term “seditious” is not clearly defined and what constitutes a “seditious tendency” is unclear. The Malaysian government argues [Malay Mail report] that, while it respects the UN’s position, the UN needs to respect domestic sovereignty. The government will continue to uphold the Sedition Act to promote national solidarity unless a new law is created as a replacement.
UN officials have called on Malaysian authorities to review the Sedition Act [JURIST report] on numerous occasions. Last month an official for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], voiced fear that the authorities in Malaysia are increasingly applying the Sedition Act arbitrarily to silence critical voices. In September prosecutors charged law professor Azmi Sharom [JURIST report] with sedition for his opinion on a political crisis that occurred five years ago. The lawyer representing Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s strongest governmental opposition group, was charged with sedition [JURIST report] in August because of a written statement he issued acting as Anwar’s legal counsel.