Freedom Of Expression In Malaysia

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Freedom of Expression does exist in Malaysia. ‘Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Association’ is recorded under Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution, in Part II. According to Article 10 Clause (1) in the Federal Constitution, “(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression; (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) all citizens have the right to form associations”. With this, it is only right to say that the people do have and can practice the freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Freedom of expression exists to make the people voice out their opinions and thoughts on a certain issue, but not to create offensive and hate comments for the person accused in that particular issue. The people have to know the differences between freedom of speech and a hate speech. According to James v Commonwealth Australia [1936] AC 578 as declared by the House of Lords, “Free speech does not mean free speech: it means speech hedged in by all the laws against defamation, blasphemy, sedition and so forth. It means freedom governed by law.”

The laws that exist to restrict the freedom of speech and expression include the Defamation Act, Sedition Act 1948, Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 and Printing Presses & Publications Act 1984.

Defamation Act was constructed to protect a person or an organisation’s image and reputation from being destroyed by the acts of others’ ill-intentions of writing false statements regarding them. A case on the subject of Defamation Act was when Hadijah Mohamed Mokhtar, a cosmetics businesswoman, and her daughter Nur Shazleen Anis Mohd Yusoff, made defamatory statements towards actress Maria Farida on their Instagram accounts. Hadijah and her daughter have falsely used their freedom of expression in a public platform like Instagram to intentionally defame and slander the said actress. Maria sued Hadijah and her daughter under the Defamation Act on December 30, 2015. When both Hadijah and her daughter failed to be present during the court trial, they were ordered to pay RM300,000 and Rm100,000 respectively in damages to the plaintiff by Judicial Commissioner Wan Ahmad Faris Wan Salleh.

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Sedition Act 1948 is a law protecting the Ruler, Yang di-Pertua Negeri of any state and the Government from any seditious acts or tendency affecting disaffection towards them. A case concerning the Sedition Act was when political cartoonist, Zunar, deemed liable for seditious tendency because he criticized the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim, who was our then opposition leader, on his public Twitter account. Zunar has always been one to freely express his thoughts on the government in his cartoons, which often is mocking them, but his one tweet in Twitter has made him being sued for 9 counts under the Sedition Act. The charges against him were then dropped because the Attorney-General’s office decided to not pursue the case.

Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is an Act to provide for and to regulate the converging communications and multimedia industries, and for incidental matters. One case regarding this act was when Fahmi Reza uploaded a photo of his illustration of a clown that resembles our former Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak on his Facebook account. He has made an offence to Section 233(1)(a) of this Act, in which he has misused his rights freedom of expression on a network service to initiate a communication that was offensive with the intention to annoy other people, and punishable under Section 233(3) of the same Act, in which he was sentenced to one-month jail and a fine of RM30,000 by the Ipoh Sessions Court on February 20, 2018.

Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) is an Act to supervise the use of printing presses and the printing, importation, production, reproduction, publishing and distribution of publications in Malaysia. The Home Affairs Minister is given the right to grant or revoke licenses, and can also ban or restrict printing presses without permit or publications that are likely to threaten national security. A case when the PPPA was challenged was when the Home Minister would not grant the permit to Malaysiakini, whom before was an online news portal Mkini dot com, for newspaper publication. The Kuala Lumpur High Court’s Appellate and Special Powers, however, has revoked the Home Minister’s decision as Malaysiakini was found to have no intention to threaten national security by going to physical publication.

To conclude, Malaysians do have their own rights to speak out their opinions on any public platform but these laws exist for a reason: to maintain peace and harmony in our country. Without restrictions, chaos and public riot may occur and it will stain the image of our country, Malaysia.

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Freedom Of Expression In Malaysia. (2021, September 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
“Freedom Of Expression In Malaysia.” Edubirdie, 29 Sept. 2021,
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