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Freedom of speech, with responsibility

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The Centre for Independent Journalism is concerned with the direction of punitive repression for freedom of expression, coupled with a lack of responsible decision-making on the part of some news outlets.

We urge the urgent repeal of repressive legislation to ensure that a conducive environment for self-regulation is established to ensure that Malaysians are able to engage debate and discussion, particularly on the issues of race and religion that continue to be used to divide us.

The current spate of jail terms for people making distasteful comments about religion indicates that harsh sentences are having little effect in stemming distrust among Malaysians.

CIJ urges that the government take proactive measures to encourage debate and discussion, such as holding televised debates among religious leaders, promoting open and transparent inter-faith dialogue and encouraging a process of learning about other faiths for all Malaysians.

Simultaneously, CIJ condemns the decision of at least one media outlet to share the terror video apparently made by the perpetrator of the massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand. The video was made as part of the perpetrator’s propaganda to dehumanise Muslims, contained graphic violence and served no purpose in terms of reporting the events.

In doing so, CIJ is not calling for action to be taken against the news outlet, but highlighting the importance of a self-regulatory body where members of the public are able to lodge complaints, for free, in the public interest.

Thus CIJ calls for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act, a review of the Official Secrets Act and a review of both the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

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This would ensure that the principle of freedom of expression is the basis for laws in Malaysia and that exceptions to this principle are defined by law, that they are narrow and that they meet international standards.

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