Petition to Support the Right to Freedom of Expression

A series of investigations against those who attempt to question issues on Shar'iah law, as has been instituted against women's right group Sisters-in-Islam and editor of the Star, P. Gunasegaram, threatens close off rational discussion and violates the rights to freedom of expression. SUARAM, Womens' Aid Organization and CIJ calls for the public's support in signing a petition to reclaim the right to discussion.

 


 

To Sign the petition http://www.petitiononline.com/wao1234/
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To:  Y.A.B. DATO’ SRI MOHD. NAJIB BIN TUN ABDUL RAZAK

We the undersigned, are Malaysians who believe in the freedom of
expression as guaranteed by Article 10 in our Federal Constitution.

We are greatly troubled by the alarming trend to investigate civil
society activists and journalists under the Penal Code, the Sedition
Act, the Printing Presses and Publication Act, or the Syariah Criminal
Offences Act for exercising their legitimate and peaceful right to
discuss, debate, and comment on matters of public interest.

This sets a bad precedent, one that shall only encourage a further
deterioration of public civic culture in a democratizing society such
as Malaysia. It undermines freedom of speech, and narrows the public
space for legitimate dissent.

This trend of growing intolerance for differing opinions in Malaysia,
especially on matters of religion, must be halted if Malaysia wants to
remain a democracy and plans to sit as a member of the United Nations
Human Rights Council.

We have noted from various media reports that on February 25th
2010, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) has lodged a police
report against Sisters in Islam (SIS) because of SIS’ press statement
on the caning of three Muslim women that was announced to have taken
place on February 9th 2010. This report by MAIS is one of six lodged
against SIS and also against P. Gunasegaram, Managing Editor of The
Star for his article ‘Persuasion not Compulsion’ on February 19th 2010.

We understand that the police have already begun an investigation of
SIS under Section 298(A) of the Penal Code for “causing, etc.,
disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or
prejudicing, etc., the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of
religion”.

The Home Ministry has also issued a show-cause letter to The Star and
gave the newspaper 14 days to reply as to why action should not be
taken against it.

In a modern democratic nation-state, all citizens are entitled to
hold, voice, and promote their own views and the media is free to
report and comment on issues of public interest. In this instance, the
right cannot be restricted to Muslims alone, nor can it be exclusively
exercised on their behalf by a small minority.

Furthermore the act of “questioning” is not legitimately recognised as
a criminal offence in any reputable modern Shari’ah Law jurisdiction.
Questions about the nature and structure of state, about the character
and tone of its legal system and operation of its legal institutions
are the LEGITIMATE BUSINESS of all in Malaysia.

The future of democratic Malaysia lies with the expansion of
freedom of expression, not further shrinking of the public space for
legitimate and peaceful dissent.

Sincerely,

 

The Undersigned