[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Thursday demanded that the Malaysian government drop sedition charges against Eric Paulsen. The human rights lawyer and co-founder of NGO Lawyers for Liberty [advocacy website] was arrested for a tweet criticizing an Islamic state agency. Paulsen could face up to three years in prison for the tweet, which called upon the government to prevent the Department of Islamic Development from promoting extremism [AI report]. He was charged under Malaysia’s controversial Sedition Act [text, PDF], which opponents claim gives authorities the power to silence political critics. According to AI, the law limits freedom of speech and freedom of expression against the government. At least 18 people have been charged under the Sedition Act since the beginning of 2014.
UN officials have called on Malaysian authorities to review the Sedition Act [JURIST report] on numerous occasions. In October the UN urged [JURIST report] the Malaysian government to abolish the Sedition Act after receiving reports of increasing criminalization of government critics. In September 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. Also in September prosecutors charged law professor Azmi Sharom [JURIST report] with sedition for his opinion on a political crisis that occurred five years ago.