The right to free speech must be protected to create a marketplace of ideas in Malaysia. It’s hard for Malaysia to move forward if alternative views are stifled. At the same time, there must also be legislation to protect minority groups from hate speech and hate crimes, but such acts should have very specific definitions in the law.
I believe that laws which curb freedom of speech and press freedom should be abolished, while public access to information should be improved. We need to Repeal the Sedition Act 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
The Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act are frequently used against citizens who criticise the establishment, especially over comments made on social media. The PPPA is used to control the media by requiring print publications to get permits in order to operate. These laws must be abolished in the interest of freedom of speech and expression, and press freedom.
We must repeal the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972 and enact a federal Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The OSA has no place in a modern democracy. Information should generally be open to the public; very limited government data, such as on defence, should be classified. An FOI Act is necessary to empower the citizenry with knowledge and information and to hold the government of the day accountable.
Malaysia should make information available. Information on various government issues like local councils’ budgets and crime statistics should be readily available on official websites. Malaysia must promote a culture of transparency.
We should enact hate speech laws. Malaysia should have specific legislation outlawing hate speech and hate crimes against minority groups. However, such laws should not define hate speech or hate crime widely – hate speech should be narrowly defined based on threats of violence, not on mere insults.