Freedom of expression under attack on all fronts
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA PRESS RELEASE
The Amnesty International Report (AIR) 2014/15 – The State of the World’s Human Rights provides a comprehensive overview of the state of human rights in 160 countries across the globe, Malaysia included. Compared to previous years, the report this year comprises an outlook and projection of the landscape of the state of human rights globally.
According to the report, the human rights outlook from 2015 to 2016 will continue to be bleak unless there is a fundamental change to the global response to conflict, which has been ineffective thus far. World leaders in particular must act now to take the global community a step closer to a safer world where rights and freedoms are acknowledged and protected.
Countries across the globe have reported various incidents of human rights violations. Freedom of expression is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas and includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In Malaysia, the freedom of expression has come under heavy attack with the government’s increasing use of the Sedition Act and other repressive laws to arrest and charge human rights defenders and opposition politicians.
Those investigated, charged or imprisoned under the Sedition Act included a journalist, academics and students. Adam Adli Abdul Halim was sentenced to 10 months under the Sedition Act for making a speech at a rally and Chow Mun Fai received 12 months under the Communications and Multimedia Act for a Facebook post. At least 16 others faced charges at year’s end. The government seemed persistent in its attempts to undermine civil society.
“The government is obligated to clearly outline and publicise what constitutes incitement to rebellion per se. International human rights standards recognise certain instances whereby action against the instigator is necessary, however, ambiguity in interpretation cannot be tolerated as it may be subject to abuse. The lack of solid justification for arrests and detainment which is happening now is appalling and is an outright violation of human rights”, Executive Director, Amnesty International Malaysia, Shamini Darshni said.
The AIR 2014/15 also noted that media outlets and publishing houses faced sweeping restrictions under the Printing Presses and Publications Act. The Act required that licenses be obtained for print publications, which could be arbitrarily revoked by the Home Minister. Independent media outlets in particular faced difficulty in obtaining licenses under the Act. Civil defamation suits were used by government officials and politicians in attempts to suppress criticism by media.
“In today’s digital realm, the freedom of expression comes under heavier attack. Information deemed unfavourable, and shared with the public at large, subjects the author to scrutiny, reprimand and sometimes arrest,” Shamini noted.
Deaths in police custody remains a controversial subject, with the authorities accused of abuse, neglect, racism and cover-ups of the causes of these deaths. The police also face persistent allegations of other human rights violations: torture and other ill-treatment, and unnecessary and excessive use of force and firearms.
On arbitrary arrests and detentions, Amnesty International noted that the authorities continued to use the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals suspected of criminal activities.
In 2014, instances of religious intolerance as well as restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion were amplified. The authorities increasingly used religion as a justification for discrimination against minority religious groups, Amnesty noted.
Human rights violations towards refugees and asylum-seekers were also observed. In spite of objections from various parties, in May 2014, the authorities forcibly returned two refugees and one asylum-seeker under the protection of UNHCR to their originating country where they faced likely persecution and torture.
On capital punishment, Amnesty International emphasised that there is a wealth of mounting evidence that proves that the death penalty is ineffective against crime. Around the world, the death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities.
“Death sentences continued to be imposed and reports indicated that executions were carried out in a secretive manner, without prior or posthumous announcements,” Shamini noted.
Despite the challenges, human rights activists and supporters of Amnesty International have worked relentlessly to uphold the rights and dignity of those abused and oppressed and have little or no way of defending themselves.
“The issues raised in the Amnesty International Report 2014/15 draw attention to human rights abuses in Malaysia and presents it in a context which tells us that Malaysia is not unique in its challenges. As a global movement of seven million members and supporters, we are confident that we will make inroads in addressing the human rights atrocities that too many people across the world needlessly endure,” Shamini said.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organisation with more than 7 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organisation investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilises the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.