Malaysia’s civil space still ‘obstructed’ for sixth year amid suppression of dissent, satire, protest

Malaysia’s civic space was rated as “obstructed” for the sixth consecutive year, amid continued suppression of dissenting voices and satire as well as restrictions on protests in 2022, an international report released today has found.

MMO) – In the “People Power Under Attack 2022” report by global research collaboration CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories, Malaysia is one of seven countries in the Asia region rated as having an “obstructed” civic space.

The “obstructed” category is the middle grade for how well a country respects the freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. The full range of ratings is from open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed.

The other regional nations falling in the “obstructed” category are Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Timor-Leste, and Nepal.

Malaysia has been in the “obstructed” category since CIVICUS Monitor started releasing its annual report in 2017.

Why is Malaysia’s civic space ‘obstructed’?

Commenting on Malaysia’s “obstructed” rating, CIVICUS Monitor said it had documented the continued use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in the country, as well as restrictions on protests and harassment of peaceful protesters.

In a statement, CIVICUS Monitor listed the attempts to silence critical voices online last year as including the Communications and Multimedia Act’s (CMA) Section 233, under which graphic designer Fahmi Reza was charged twice last February for two satirical posters — caricaturing a former health minister on the shortened Covid-19 quarantine period for ministers and the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s order which allowed alcohol factories to continue operating during the Covid-19 lockdown.

It also noted Section 233 — which it said was broad and vague and inconsistent with international law and students — was used for Fahmi’s last April arrest over another satirical artwork depicting what appeared to be an ape in a monarch’s clothing.

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