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We refer to the news report today that a farmer was charged for allegedly circulating WhatsApp messages surrounding the Forest City casino discussions.

This is a witch hunt with the sole aim of cracking down on discourse that tarnishes the government’s reputation in the eyes of the public. Through such systematic targeting of members of the public, it could not be more blatant that the government has completely failed in upholding not only the fundamental right to freedom of expression, but also the supreme law of the land, the Federal Constitution, that enshrines this fundamental right. In the process of doing so, the state incites further self-censorship and fear among the greater populace, effectively curtailing public participation in nation-building.

Whilst wasting police resources that are already limited, we also see streaks of authoritarian policing at play, whereby the police is deployed by the state to serve their interests instead of those of the public, via arbitrary application of draconian laws for which they could not be held accountable.

Such systematic crackdown is unfortunately not new. In fact, this tactic was employed by the Perikatan Nasional administration to clamp down on public dissent – both the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act were used to investigate 14 activists for their plans to organise the #Lawan rally in 2021.

Freedom of expression has thus regressed to levels seen during the pandemic. This is also highly concerning, as it can set the precedent for increasingly draconian measures by the state against the public in the name of ‘restoring order’ or ‘upholding truth’.

We are a democratic nation, not an authoritarian regime. Stop this farcical crackdown immediately and we repeat, repeal the Sedition Act. 

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