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Malaysian government chokes free speech with vague laws

Rights groups want to scrap laws that are incompatible with international human rights law and standards

UCA News reporter, Kuala Lumpur

UCA News reporter, Kuala Lumpur

Updated: July 17, 2020 11:17 AM GMT
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Malaysian government chokes free speech with vague laws

Customers eat lunch at a restaurant with tables in a stream of a river in Kampung Kemensah on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on July 14, 2020. (Mohd Rasfan  / AFP)

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The Malaysian authorities' continued crackdown on journalists and opinionated citizens is having a "chilling effect" on free expression and media freedom in the country, rights advocates have warned.

In recent weeks several prominent journalists have faced police action over their reporting in the predominantly Muslim nation whose government appears wary of criticism.

"Malaysia's Perikatan Nasional government is increasingly responding to public criticism by carrying out abusive investigations on specious charges," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement released online.

"Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin should recognize that everyone has a right to criticize their government without fear of investigation or prosecution," the rights advocate added.

In May, a Kuala Lumpur-based correspondent for "The South China Morning Post" in Hong Kong was summoned for questioning by police over her reporting on a large-scale crackdown on migrants and asylum seekers in a government effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Last week local authorities also targeted journalists working for the Al Jazeera news channel over a documentary that detailed Malaysia's inhumane treatment of migrant workers during the pandemic.

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