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Plans for cyber sedition law bode ill for free expression, says CIJ

(CIJ/IFEX) - 2 December 2010 - The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is greatly concerned at Home Minister Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Hussein's references to a new law that will be introduced to govern sedition in cyberspace.

The Home Minister reportedly said that the law would be based on the existing Sedition Act (1948) and would assist in determining what type of online content could lead to prosecution.

CIJ finds this highly disturbing since the much-abused existing law is already applicable online, as seen in the charging of top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and his peers. Furthermore, the government's formulation of this new sedition law, which targets online expression, seems to be a deliberate act to censor the Internet. This is despite the "no Internet censorship" promise laid out in the Bill of Guarantees of the Multimedia Super Corridor.

Sedition is a draconian, antiquated concept that poses a serious curb on freedom of expression guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. In the interest of democracy and the attendant freedom of expression, the federal government should be working to abolish the existing law instead of drafting new ones to assist in the prosecution of 'seditious' online content. Any measures taken to curb the already limited freedom of expression in Malaysia only demonstrate the government's unwillingness to engage in genuine public discourse and to be held publicly accountable.

CIJ is also extremely concerned at the manner in which this new law is being introduced. It has been referred to as "guidelines", "regulations" and now, a "cyber sedition bill", which will be tabled to Cabinet on 3 December 2010. In a democracy, anything that affects the fundamental freedoms in the Federal Constitution, including the drafting of laws, should be open to comment and input from all interested parties. Yet there was little information and no public consultation on this matter.

CIJ therefore calls on the government to be open and transparent in the formulation of new laws and to refrain from enacting this "cyber sedition bill" or any legislation that will further curb freedom of expression in Malaysia.

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