The Coalition for Freedom of Expression (CFOE) is a group of civil society organisations advocating for freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia consisting of Aliran, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Knowledge and Rights with Young People Through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).
Following the Malaysian people’s decision to vote for change in general elections held on 9 May, we the undersigned civil society organisations call on the incoming government to honor the mandate it has been given by implementing a comprehensive program of reform and strengthening human rights protections in Malaysia.
Across Asia, the legitimate exercise of rights on the internet by individuals is increasingly branded as criminal activity. Defamation and sedition laws are the new forms of addressing inconvenient expression. As elections approach, there is a growing fear of the voice of people echoed on the internet.
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 22 March 2018
President Donald Trump’s “fake news” mantra has inspired authoritarian leaders elsewhere to manufacture new laws that can both target legitimate media outlets that are critical of them and further violate the media’s ability to exercise freedom of expression. The Malaysian government has thus far suspended media and blocked websites that have hounded the Prime Minister over the 1MDB affair, and I believe, has recently launched a website to counter “fake news”. Nonetheless, 1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for money-laundering and misappropriation of funds and cannot be so easily canned as “fake news”.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is not impressed by the cosmetic touches put forward in the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Its biggest failure is its omission of the human rights violations of the government thus far and in so doing, fails to bring forth the urgent reform needed to improve human rights in Malaysia.