Malaysia draws more fire with sedition law changes
Malaysia’s government plans to strengthen its much- criticized sedition law with longer jail terms and other changes, fresh after enacting an anti- terrorism law denounced by the opposition and rights groups as a threat to civil liberties.
The amendment to the Sedition Act, tabled in parliament on Tues- day, will extend the maximum jail term to 20 years from the current three years, and allow authorities to deny a suspect bail and seize their travel documents.
According to the amendment, it will no longer be illegal to insult the government, but speech inciting religious hatred in the Muslimdominated but multifaith country will be illegal.
“This is in line with the intention of the government to protect the sanctity of religions professed by the multi- religious society in Malaysia. An act of insulting and ridiculing any religion may cause disharmony and threaten public order,” the amendment said.
Critics of the government, which has seen voter support slide, say it is increasingly falling back on “protecting Islam” in order to curb free speech by progressives and followers of other faiths in the religiously diverse opposition.
Amid pressure for reform, Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised in 2012 to scrap the British colonial- era Sedition Act.