PETALING JAYA: Former Bar Council president Salim Bashir sees no need for a new law to curb hate speech, as he says current laws are sufficient to deal with hate speech.
He cited the Penal Code, the Sedition Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act as among those that could be used to counter hate crimes.
However, he told FMT that “any further legislation to stifle freedom of speech and expression is a regressive move when even some of those existing laws are considered repressive.”
A human rights activist Zaid Malek said great care must be taken when tabling any anti-hate speech legislation, because of the long history of executive abuse of laws such as the Sedition Act.
“It is always dangerous when the state has the power to determine what is hateful, so any such legislation will require strict check and balance,” he said.
Zaid, who is director of the Lawyers for Liberty group, said existing repressive laws must also be repealed before introducing any new legislation. “Otherwise, we would be giving a panoply of oppressive laws for the government to wield against citizens.”
On Thursday, Petaling Jaya MP Lee Chean Chung had called for an anti-hatred law in light of various statements by PAS leaders deemed to be inflammatory.
Lee, who is PKR communications director, said the inflammatory attacks began a few months before the November general election, intensified after the dissolution of Parliament and were heightened when Perikatan Nasional failed to form the government.
A similar call for a new law came from G25, an organisation of influential Malays, who proposed a racial and religious harmony act that would make inciting racial or religious hatred an offence.
However Salim said legislation could not be used to silence unfavourable or critical opinions as this suppressed debates and stifled views from the public or even politicians.
He said people affected by inflammatory statements could resort to civil suits to claim damages for defamation.