Writing and expressing opinions which has seditious tendency in the social media is on the rise. Lately, the University Malaya law lecturer Asso Prof Dr. Azmi Sharom was charged in Session court over a charge of making alleged seditious comments on an online portal concerning the 2009 Perak crisis. He was charged under Section (4) (1)(b) and Section 4(1)c) of Sedition Act 1948.
But the Malaysian Bar Council claims that Dr. Azmi’s comments were within the reasonable exercise of academic freedom and public discourse. Understanding and translating the Constitution and laws of the country is not the monopoly of BAR Council. Malaysians need to be educated on Sedition particularly the provisions enlisted in Section 4 of the Sedition Act.
The meaning of "seditious tendency" is defined in section 3 of the Sedition Act 1948. Under section 3 (1), those acts defined as having a seditious tendency are acts with a tendency
( a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.
4 (1) Any person who-
(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act which has or which would, if done, have a seditious tendency;
(b) utters any seditious words;
(c) prints, publishes, selss, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication
No doubt Article 10 (1) (a) of the Federal Constitution provides freedom of speech for Malaysian citizen. But Article 10 ( 1) ( a ) of the constitution must be read in the light of other articles in the Constitution which curtails this freedom.
Even United Kingdom has laws such as Race Relations Act 1976 which outlaws insulting speech which likely to cause racial hatred or disharmony because dissemination of truth is less important than the maintenance of the social fabric of society. Malaysia cannot afford to practice freedom of speech as practiced in the West without responsibility. In order to ensure harmony among various races and enhance political stability, the rights to speech and expression are restraint by Article 63 (4) and 10 (a) of the Federal Constitution.
Hence, Sedition Act 1948 should stay to enhance the harmony among various races strengthen further to make Malaysia a peaceful country to live.