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Brunei government employee charged with sedition over Facebook post

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah speaks during an Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, 10 October 2016
Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah speaks during an Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, 10 October 2016

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

This statement was originally published on advox.globalvoices.org on 29 July 2017. It is republished here under Creative Commons license CC-BY 3.0.

A government employee in Brunei was charged with violating the Sedition Act over a Facebook post criticizing the Halal certification policy of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

On July 16, 2017, Shahiransheriffuddin bin Shahrani Muhammad wrote on his Facebook account named Shahiran S. Leong about his frustration over a news report explaining the process for Halal certification based on the new regulations released by the ministry.

Shahiran complained about the need to hire Halal supervisors and how this will affect small businesses:

This may also hit people in other industries like cosmetics. My cousin thinking about making soaps as a hobby will be impacted.

Get a halal cert or get fined. Halal certs will cost you fucking loads like hiring up to 5/6 new people. Small home based businesses ARE NOT EXEMPTED.


The post contained words that insulted ministry officials aside from asking Bruneians to dissent.

The Facebook post is no longer accessible but some Twitter users were able to upload a screenshot.

Brunei has a Muslim-majority population ruled by an absolute monarchy. In 2014, the government expanded the implementation of the Sharia law, raising concerns about the appropriateness of some penalties, like stoning to death for adultery. Brunei was the first East Asian country to implement Sharia law at the national level.

Halal certification means that a food product has been endorsed by an accredited religious authority as meeting Islamic standards.

According to the Borneo Bulletin news website, Shahiran was charged with one count under Section 4 (1) (c) of the Sedition Act, which alleges that he made a seditious post on his personal Facebook page. If found guilty, he faces a maximum fine of BN $5,000 (US $3,600) and a two-year prison term. He is currently out on bail and was ordered not to post inflammatory comments against the government on social media. Shahiran's next hearing is scheduled on August 31.

Shahiran's case prompted several Twitter users to comment about the lack of free speech in the country: Some pointed out the harsh penalty inflicted on Shahiran for merely expressing his views; others recognized the legitimate concerns he raised, but also criticized him for being disrespectful:
The media is strictly regulated in Brunei and issues related to civil liberties are not often discussed online; that's why the ongoing conversation about Shahiran's case provides a rare glimpse of how some netizens think about the situation in the country today.

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