Rights group warns of return to ‘the bad old days’ for free speech under PN

Investigations have been opened into several individuals over their writing and social media posts since Perikatan Nasional took federal power in March.

PETALING JAYA: An international rights watchdog today accused the government of backsliding in terms of free speech by clamping down on various individuals after Perikatan Nasional took federal power in March.

Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson noted that investigations had been opened in several cases including that of a journalist, activists and an opposition MP.

“Like flicking a light switch, Malaysian authorities have returned to the rights-abusing practices of the past, calling journalists, activists and opposition figures into police stations to be questioned about their writing and social media posts,” he said in a statement.

The laws used to investigate the recent cases include the Communications and Multimedia Act and Sections 504 and 505 of the Penal Code.

Robertson said these laws were “overly broad and subject to abuse”, noting that they had also been used against critics by previous administrations.

He said the people should be able to criticise the government and its policies without fear of facing police questioning and possible criminal charges.

“Instead of dusting off abusive laws for use against its critics, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration should amend or repeal those laws to protect everyone’s freedom of speech in Malaysia.

“The government should stop trying to return to the bad old days and revise the laws to meet international standards,” he said.

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