FREEDOM AFTER SPEECH?
By: Nigel Lo (2011)
Freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one's opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. "Speech" is not limited to public speakingand is generally taken to include other forms of expression. The term freedom of expression issometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and impartinginformation or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speechis not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on slander and libel. This essay will aim to discuss the censorship of free speech in Malaysia. This essaywill also present arguments to what extent free speech should be considered acceptable in our society.In examination of the country Malaysia, democracy takes a different view towards freespeech and the censorship of free speech is clear in the eyes of any observant individual who hasobserved and read the daily papers every few months. The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA)(Malay:
Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri
) is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia.The legislation was enacted after Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. The ISAallows for detention without trial or criminal charges under limited, legally definedcircumstances. On 15 September 2011, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak said thatthis legislation will be repealed and replaced by two new laws. The ISA would only be repealedin March 2012. Preventive detention was first implemented in Malaya by the British in 1948 tocombat the armed insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party during the Malayan Emergency.The
Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948
was enacted by the British High Commissioner Sir Edward Gent. It allowed the detention of persons for a period not exceeding one year. Thisordinance targeted at acts of violence and only imposed temporary detention. The stated purposeof the ISA was to deter communist activity in Malaysia during the Malayan Emergency andafterwards. The first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, defined the purpose of the act as to "be used solely against the communists...My Cabinet colleagues and I gave a solemn promise to Parliament and the nation that the immense powers given to the government under theISA would never be used to stifle legitimate opposition and silence lawful dissent". The thirdPrime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, stated at the same time that his administration had enforcedthe act only with a view to curbing communist activity, and not to repress "lawful politicalopposition and democratic citizen activity.Since 1960 when the Act was enacted, hordes of citizens including trade unionists,student leaders, labour activists, political activists, religious groups, academicians, NGO activistshave been arrested under the ISA. Many political activists in the past have been detained for more than a decade. The ISA has been consistently used against people who criticise thegovernment and defend human rights. Known by the country as the "
", it has beenthe most feared and despised, yet convenient tool for the state to suppress opposition and opendebate. The Act is seen by some as an instrument maintained by the ruling government to control public life and civil society. The case of Raja Petra Kamarudin, a well known blogger of Malaysia Today website, detained under the Internal Security Act on 12 September 2008 and wassubsequently released 56 days later, was due to the habeas corpus filed by his lawyer citing