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The Importance of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press

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 The definition of freedom of press is the right to circulate opinions in print without censorship by the government. In Malaysia, the freedom of speech including the freedom of press are protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. However, according to Article 10(2) of the Federal Constitution, these freedoms are not absolute because the Parliament has the right to impose some restriction on it. In the case of Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd v Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj Adnan bin Hj Yaakob 5 MLJ 56 shows that politicians cannot sue the media for defamation in their capacity as public figures. Since the article published on the newspaper is in his capacity as a Memteri Besar of Pahang but not in personally, therefore, Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj Adnan bin Hj Yaakob does not have the locus standi to file defamation suit in official capacity. The main challenge faced by our nation is the democratic values might be abuse by the restrictions on the freedom of press because the right to enjoy the freedom of speech is not absolute and might be dispelled anytime. It is important to have a free media that is at liberty to report the truth to citizens in our nation. This statement could be illustrated by the case of City of Chicago v The Tribune Company, the public have the right to discuss their government without any fears. However, the restriction impose by the Parliament in our nation might impedes the free flow of the information in a democracy society. Besides that, there are also various challenge and risk faced by our legislation that will be discuss in this assignment. The main idea of this assignment is the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of press for a nation.

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Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 In Malaysia, one of the enactment which forces confinements on freedom of press is the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984. The Act directs the utilization of printing presses and the printing, importation, creation, distributing, and appropriations and for issues associated therewith. As indicated by S3(1) of the PPPA, the provision just concedes the privileges to those who claimed a license under subsection 3. Under the provision of subsection 3 states that minister have the right to grant or revoke a license for the printing press to any person. This unmistakably shows few out of every odd person in Malaysia has the privilege to freedom of press which is plainly gotten from the freedom of speech and expression. Besides, S7 of the PPPA states that the minister may at his absolute discretion by request published in the Gazette prohibits the publisher which is concerned. 

Despite the fact that license had been conceded to the specific publisher, still, they are subjected to the administration’s control on the undesirable publication. Notwithstanding that, the words, ‘at his absolute discretion’ which showed up in S7 of the Act provides an obscure and indeterminate assurance on a fundamental right in freedom of press which is given under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Nonetheless, after July 2012, which is after the alteration on the PPPA, the newspapers never again expected to re-establish them allow every year and the minister’s decisions could be tested in court. By this, the freedom of press is slightly more secure compare to the previous one. In the case of Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Bin Syed Jaafar Albar v SIS Forum (Malaysia) looked for legal audit of the Minister of Home Affairs’ (“Minister”) choice to boycott a book distributed by it, “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism”. 

The book was an assemblage of papers submitted amid a worldwide roundtable examining difficulties looked by Muslim ladies, including sexual orientation segregation. The Act disallows publication of materials which are ‘biased to public order’. High Court found that the Minister was not able to give instances of how the book involved open request issues by influencing open well-being and serenity of the network. Additionally, the book had been available for use for a long time and had not unfavourably affected the security and peacefulness of the general population. Thus, High Court allowed legal survey application for substantive alleviation to SIS Forum. Another case is the case of Lim Guan Eng v Public Prosecutor where the appellant published five thousand copies of pamphlet which contained the words ‘Victim imprisoned, criminal free’ which caused him to be charged under S8(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for the news that maliciously published. The words ‘victim imprisoned’ were decided by the courts to amount to fake news. The appellant was found guilty and was sentence for 6 months imprisonment and RM10,000 of fines. Last year, the Parliament adopted an Anti-Fake News Act 2018 to ban any publication of news that is considered to be fake. This indirectly discouraged certain news from being published. In particular, Razak was under pressure due to the financial scandal surrounding 1 Malaysia Development Barisan a strategic development company owned by the government. As the 1MDB scandal and other exposures rattled the ruling party, more archaic laws were used by the government to punish critics. In accordance with the Colonial Sedition Act, several editors have been arrested. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission blocked access to the Sarawak Report in 2015, claiming it undermined the country’s stability. According to San Frontie reporters 2017 press freedom index, Malaysia’s press freedom was ranked 144 out of 180 countries. Malaysia fell to its lowest ever position to 146 out of 179 countries in 2017. 

The Whistle Blower website Sarawak Report, Medium, Outsyed the Box, Tabung Insider, Jinggo Photopages, Din Turtle, Asia Sentineland Malaysia Chronicle were reportedly blocked by the government for publishing unchecked information for the Prime Minister. Caretaker Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the number of newspaper titles was sufficient for the Malaysian population and an avalanche of news from different perspectives which would probably confuse the readers. This actually restricts the presses to voice out the real and competent news about what is happening in the outside world and in our country to the citizens. Sedition Act 1948 Parliament had also enacted Sedition Act 1948 (hereinafter known as SA), which is specifically intended to punish those who commit crimes such as attempts to prepare or conspire with anyone who has a seditious tendency to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute or reproduce any seditious publication or import any seditious publication referred to in S4 of SA. . S3 of SA defines the seditious trend that a seditious tendency is a tendency to incite hatred or disappointment against any ruler or government. S3 of SA states the intention of the person charged at the time he did or attempted to do any act or uttered any seditious words, or did anything else, for the purpose of proving the commission of any offense against this Act, shall be deemed irrelevant if in fact the act had, a seditious tendency. However, in the case of Kerajaan Malaysia v Mat Shuhaimi bin Shafiei , the Court of Appeal set aside the High Court decision, and made a declaration which is Section 3of the Sedition Act 1948, against Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and therefore is invalid and of no legal effect. In addition, five journalists from The Malaysia Insider and The Edge were arrested for misreporting the news. On 25 March 2015, TMI published a report stating that the Conference of Rulers had rejected proposed amendments to the 1965 Sharia Court Act to enforce hudud in Kelantan. However, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad denied issuing any statement on hudud in Kelantan and had lodged a police report against TMI at the next day.

Later, police officers and the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission arrested the five journalists in accordance with Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, they were charged with improper use of network facilities or network services. Furthermore, in the case of Public Prosecutor V Ooi Kee Saik & Ors , The first accused was accused of an offense under Section 4 of the 1948 Sedition Act, the second accused of publishing the alleged seditious words and the third and fourth accused of printing the alleged seditious words. The seditious words were allegedly spoken by the first accused during Democratic Action Party dinner. The court held that the statements taken in their entirety exceeded the limits of freedom of expression. The government was accused of gross partiality in favour of one group and this was calculated to inspire feelings of enmity and disaffection among the Malaysian people. In Public Prosecutor v Fan Yew Teng , the accused was charged with publishing a seditious publication, an article under the heading ‘Alliance Policy of Segregation ‘Evidence Galore’ listed by Dr. Ooi’ issue of the Rocket, an official Democratic Action Party body, giving the full text of Dr. Ooi Kee Saik ‘s speech. The court held that the court was satisfied without reasonable doubt that the accused published an article on the evidence produced by the prosecution, which was the subject of the charge read in its entirety.

 Accordingly, the accused was guilty of the charge and was fined $2,000 in default of imprisonment for six months. In October, the Federal Court ruled that the SA was constitutional in response to a challenge from Azmi Sharom, a law professor charged with sedition in 2014 for commenting on a political crisis in the state of Selangor to Malay Mail Online. Amendments to the SA were approved but yet to take effect because they were not officially published. Under the amendments, the law no longer seditiously defines criticism of the judiciary or the government. Penalty raised the imprisonment for general sedition to seven years for violation of the act. 

Official Secrets Act 1972 The Official Secrets Act 1972 (hereinafter known as OSA) is a statute in Malaysia that denies the spread of data named an official secret. The enactment depends on the Official Secrets Act of the United Kingdom. The OSA permits government reports to be considered as a secret. It can’t be uncovered without appropriate authorisation. Indeed, even data or material relating to those archives can be esteemed as official secrets. The punishments gave under the act comprise of imprisonment between 1 year to 14 years and even life detainment under section 3 for spying. There have been a few voices requiring the nullification of the OSA by the civil society to support transparency in the new Government. 

The OSA could affect the freedom of press in Malaysia by the provision that give supreme power to the authorities to pronounce any data an ‘official secret.’ For example, Air Pollution Index readings, parkway and water concession assertions, and sex wrongdoing measurements have all been delegated ‘official secrets.’ Recently, the Malaysian police declined to discharge information on sexual savagery and child abuse on similar grounds. In 2016, Rafizi Ramli was discovered liable of contradicting the Official Secrets Act 1972 for uncovering entries from the Auditor General’s give an account of the botch of the 1MDB state support. He was condemned to year and a half of prison. Be that as it may, he was later let off on a decent conduct bond after the indictment, under the new Pakatan Harapan government. Besides that, the authorities choose what the general population in Malaysia can or can’t know. Consistently, the Women’s Aid Organization is given a duplicate of Bukit Aman’s Crime Statistics booklet arranged by its Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse division. In 2011, however, these measurements were retained, having been pronounced an official secret on the directions of Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar. In 2012, Rafizi Ramli was pulled up by the experts for uncovering records that demonstrated the proposed Ampang LRT augmentation. 

Moreover, writers and columnists or anybody can be captured without warrant if the specialists have sensible uncertainty that you have committed an offense under the Official Secrets Act 1972. As per the Center for Independent Journalism Malaysia, ‘The Act takes into account capture and detainment without a warrant, and significantly inverts the burden of proof, from the prosecution to the defendant. It expresses that ‘until the point when the opposite is demonstrated’, any of the exercises prohibited under the demonstration will be attempted to have been embraced ‘for a reason biased to the security or interests of Malaysia’.’ For example, this has happened to the blogger Nathaniel Tan who was then working Anwar Ibrahim in 2007. He was captured without warrant when a mysterious individual remarked an allegation of Datuk Johari Baharum on his blog and Nathaniel was suspected to distribute the allegation dependent on records secured under the demonstration that were under his ownership. Furthermore, journalists who uncover bad behaviours were not secured. Sabry Shariff is the first journalists to be indicted under this Act. Sabry, at that point with the New Straits Times, had composed a news give an account of supposed abnormalities in a guard contract given out by the Royal Malaysian Air Force. He was charged under this Act for having an ordered report. 

In 1995, previous Harian Metro wrongdoing journalist Yusaini Ali was remanded under the OSA for five days by the Johor police, alongside two others, over a story he composed on the abducting and murder of a Malaysian industrialist’s 14-year-old child. Nonetheless, he was never charged because of absence of proof. To conclude, present Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad concede that it was recently mishandled however trusts that the law should remain. The law has for some time been viewed as an apparatus to empower the legislature to keep its undertakings obscure – or more awful, to conceal its embarrassments. (IV) Defamation Act 1957 The appropriate enactment for defamation in Malaysia is the Defamation Act 1957 (hereinafter known as DA). The Defamation Act just applies to civil cases. The Malaysian law on criminal defamation is administered by the Penal Code (especially, section 499). By righteousness of section 3 of the Civil Law Act 1956, the common law of England as at 7 April 1956 in connection to defamation is relevant in Malaysia. At common law, there are two kinds of defamation. Initially, slander. It implies defamation in transitory frame e.g. talked words. Furthermore, Libel. It implies defamation in perpetual frame e.g. composed words in articles, papers, Facebook posts or WhatsApp message. In civil cases, the individual so criticized will typically sue the producer of the slanderous words for pay. 

The measure of the compensation relies upon the harm caused to the notoriety of the individual suing. Netizens and journalists are not permitted to distributed any news or any archives as they like. For an example, the previous Prime Minister Najib Razak serves MalaysiaKini with a writ of summons on two articles that are considered disparaging. For this situation, what Malaysiakini has done can be considered as defamation in light of the fact that the remarks are communicated in a changeless frame effectively perused by anybody, for example, in a book, email or picture. Other than that, Nadeswaran who is a manager with nearby every day The Sun had tweeted on July 12, 2010, suggesting that Mohamad Salim disguises his legacy and tricks individuals into trusting he is a bumiputra. He was indicted for criticism and this is believed to be the first Malaysian situation where damages for defamation over Twitter postings were granted. DA could be a danger to free press. 

Malaysian court has decided for the previous opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim in his 50 million Ringgit defamation suit against a nearby every day, considering it in charge of distributing two off base articles about the previous deputy head’s comments on homosexuality laws in 2012. Besides that, PKR Vice President Nurul Izzah Anwar was granted RM1 million damages by the High Court in a defamation suit she brought against previous Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob over articulations connected to her gathering with so called Sulu princess Jacel Kiram three years back. DA will restraint the freedom of press but however it serves as a notice so that journalists and the netizen will exercise careful and give respect to the person who they are writing on. (V) Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 Press freedom is governed under both S211 and S233 of Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (hereinafter known as CMA). S211 of CMA prohibits the publication of offensive content on the Internet. 

Those who violate this section he can be fined up to RM50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year there is also further fine of RM1000 for each day if he continues that offence after conviction of the court. S211 of CMA prohibits the publication of offensive content on the Internet. S233 of CMA prohibits improper use of network facilities or network service It deals with any negative remarks, photos, sign which are obscene, indecent, or not true against anyone on the internet. These two sections aimed to protect anyone, any person who was hurt by any posting in the internet can take legal action and protection under these sections. The press can be sued if they publish anything defamatory to anyone. They also serve as a reminder to those who have the possibilities to misuse the widespread effect of the internet to spread disrespectful materials against another. Impediment measures are crucial as once the materials have been published in the internet, it will be accessible to the all and the good name of the victim will be defamated, even though it is not true. The false materials will cause irreparable damages to the image and good will of the victims.

 Both sections of the CMA 1998 promote maturity, responsibilities and accountabilities for internet users including press. They have to check their news properly before publishing them. There were issues arose whether S233 of CMA is constitutional to our Federal Constitution. In January 2018, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that that S233 of CMA is constitutional, and does not violate Articles 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution. 

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