Magazine article New Internationalist

Creeping Totalitarianism

Magazine article New Internationalist

Creeping Totalitarianism

Article excerpt

MALAYSIA

On 6 October, Malaysia's Federal Court ruled that the 1948 colonialera Sedition Act was indeed constitutional - much to the disappointment of civil society. The Act, which criminalizes conduct with 'seditious tendencies', including exciting 'disaffection' against the ruling government, is used by the rightwing ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) party as a political dragnet to stifle criticism and dissent as it attempts to cement its 58-year stronghold on power.

The heavy-handedness is clear and it is mounting: some of the Act's recent victims include cartoonist Zunar and human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen, who both filed applications in December to challenge the sedition charges brought against them. Zunar faces a maximum 43-year jail term should he be found guilty on all counts - and all for tweeting.

The Federal Court's ruling has terrible implications, not just for those found guilty under the Act but for all Malaysians. A broken justice system which condemns 'perpetrators' of crimes of sedition exposes Malaysian democracy as dysfunctional, lacking proper checks and balances. …

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