Where's freedom of expression in Malaysia Baru?

Women's march KL 2019 - Pix from Google

By Nadhirah Sofea Rashid

The Internet is abuzz with news that the organisers of the Women's March MY are being probed under the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act.

In a statement, the organisers said they have maintained an open and cordial line of communication with the Dang Wangi police at all stages of the march.

Previously, it was reported that the organising committee had notified the police on Feb 25, 10 days before the march, which is in line with the Peaceful Assembly Act. 

The organisers also described that the march was being deliberately mischaracterised as an LGBT gathering through police statements, biased media reports and politicians.

"The media's bias and sensationalist reporting of the march has diverted the attention of the actual demands by the march. The biased reports have contributed to moral panic and political opportunism," the organisers wrote.

The Women’s March, in conjunction with International Women’s Day, has demanded to end to violence based on gender and sexual orientation, the right of women to make choices over their bodies and lives, an end to child marriage, and an end to a system of patriarchy.

Many questioned on why the march was considered as sedition as the law is being used to penalise peaceful dissent.

The Sedition Act criminalises any conduct with a “seditious tendency,” such as tending to “excite disaffection against” or “bring into hatred or contempt” the government, the judiciary, the king or the ruler of any state. 

Pakatan Harapan in their 2018 election manifesto described the Sedition Act as oppressive, unjust and pledged to repeal it.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said the investigations against the Women's March organisers should be stopped as it was unwarranted and unnecessary. He also said the probe encroached the rights of the organisers.

“Media reports have shown that the organisers have provided the requisite 10 day’s notice to the police. There is no reason for the police to investigate the organisers under the PAA 2012, as the requirement under Section 9(1) of the said Act appears to have been complied with.

“As for the Sedition Act, it is a colonial vestige that is draconian, repressive, and has no place in any democratic country,” said Syahredzan, adding that the Act included provisions which were disproportionate and gave unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.

Netizens also demanded freedom of speech and expression as what PH promised in their manifesto.

So what is happening to freedom of expression in Malaysia Baru?

Are we moving forward to a better country or what?