|Wither free speech? - Lawyers Needed! Bloggers under threat in Malaysia|
|Contributed by Shanmuga Kanesalingam|
|Thursday, 26 July 2007 01:27pm|
You will all have read about Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz’s threat to take legal action against bloggers. Bernama reports that he said “the government would not hesitate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 121B of the Penal Code against these bloggers.”
This chilling threat of action against bloggers is the latest of a series of worrying events which give rise to a reasonable apprehension that our laws on defamation, official secrets and public order may be abused in order to stifle dissent and legitimate free speech.
Blogs have become a source of much information not otherwise in the public domain and are being utilized to garner popular support through voter education drives which aim to hold policians more accountable for their actions. (The popularity of Malaysia-Today, Malaysiakini, Haris Ibrahim’s People’s Parliament, the Citizen Think Tank and other websites/blogs are cases in point).
In light of the potential threat to freedom of expression by the use of the repressive Internal Security Act and Sedition Act, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee has decided to initiate a drive to gather a pool of volunteer lawyers to be on standby to assist bloggers. This will be part of the Interventions Strike Force led by Deputy Chair Amer Hamzah Arshad. (I am writing this because Amer is outstation and Haris Ibrahim is already on duty on behalf of Raja Petra at the Dang Wangi police station)
This is in line with the Bar’s aim to provide legal representation to all those in need, particularly in cases where State action is being taken against freedom of expression. Naturally, this does not in any way amount to the Bar condoning any statements made on any blog which do in fact amount to a legitimate offence.
If you are a lawyer who is able to help, please email the Human Rights Research Officer, Mr Rajen Devaraj at firstname.lastname@example.org or send him a fax at 03-20342825/20261313 with your Name, Firm and full contact details (including email address and handphone number) so he can liaise with you.
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