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Oral statement delivered under Item 4: General Debate

UN Human Rights Council 38th Session

27 June 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.

The Association for Progressive Communications, Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia, EMPOWER, Justice for Sisters and Pelangi Campaign would like to congratulate the newly elected government of Malaysia for committing to uphold human rights in online spaces and to immediately repeal the controversial Anti Fake News Law. We also congratulate the Minister of Communications and Multimedia on his commitment to advance universal and affordable internet access in Malaysia as a critical human rights issue. We remind the government of its welcome commitment to review existing laws that criminalise legitimate expression in online spaces such as the Communications and Multimedia Act, Malaysian Penal Code, Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act as well as the highly restrictive Printing Presses and Publications Act, with a view of bringing them in line with international standards. We urge the government of Malaysia to ratify key human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the first step in this direction.

We commend the steps taken by the government towards open consultative processes, including the establishment of the Institutions Reforms Committee and its openness to receiving civil society inputs. We trust the concerns raised by all stakeholders will help shape and guarantee transparency, independence and commitment to human rights by the different bodies being reviewed.

We express concern about the multiple forms of barriers to freedom of expression and bodily autonomy that women and LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia have historically faced, which continue in online spaces. These include multiple forms of discrimination, aggression and violence online, such as the disclosure of personal information, hateful and discriminatory comments online, being “sensationalised” through manipulation of the original context or content/disinformation, and death and rape threats. This not only causes direct harm, but creates a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of association, online and offline, for those who are directly affected, as well as the broader public. In some cases, state responses have been disproportionate and resulted in an escalation of threats while perpetrators enjoy impunity. This is particularly damaging as safe and equal access to the internet is critical for communities and groups of people who face multiple forms of discrimination to advance their rights in all spheres of life.

We call on the government of Malaysia to:

  • Ensure the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, access to information, as well as the rights to privacy and safety, online and offline, for women and LGBTIQ persons, and to review and repeal laws that interfere with their exercise of these rights.

  • Take the necessary steps and measures to ensure open governance, and enact a Freedom of Information Law which would by default allow all information to be made accessible and require justification for secrecy. Such a Freedom of Information Act is best modelled to be aligned with international standards of human rights.

  • Reform the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to ensure greater multistakeholder participation, including by civil society, as well as a more open, participatory and inclusive process.

  • Subject all matters related to content regulation to due process under a court of law.

  • Strengthen protections for the right to privacy, including the protection of the right to privacy in the Federal Constitution and by conducting an open and inclusive review of the Personal Data Protection Act to ensure that it is in line with international standards. Removing the exclusion of government-processed data is a key step in this regard.  

  • Allocate spectrum for community and public use in order to advance universal and affordable access to the internet, considering too licensing norms, fees and practices which could obstruct affordability, access and the fulfilment of the rights to information and to the internet..

We call on the Council to monitor ongoing reform efforts in Malaysia to bring its laws and practices in line with international norms. We offer assistance in this regard.

Signed by:

Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia

EMPOWER, Malaysia

Justice for Sisters

Pelangi Campaign