Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Freedom of Speech, comes with responsibility & accountability


In recent times, Malaysia sees numerous comments and announcements made by Politicians and Leaders of Organisations which borders on insults and threats based on religious and racial lines. This is somewhat unfortunate and strongly discouraged.

What is more disturbing is the reliance by the makers of these insulting comments; on the Civil Liberty to Freedom of Speech, when making these unfortunate comments. 

The Federal Constitution allows and in fact guarantees the freedom of speech. Parliament has however curtailed that with the Sedition Act, which if a statement is defined to be seditious based on that Act, a person can be charged in Court. 

This is somewhat an unhealthy position of the Law.

The right to free speech ought to prevail at all times. However, the person relying on that right to free speech, must also be responsible. Sedition Act may be one way to control the kind of speech and comments a person can make, but the better way though is to educate the person and the people on respecting people. It would be ideal to educate the people that if one does not like to hear an adverse comment of himself/herself; that person ought not to the same to others. 

Also, freedom of speech by logic cannot mean to insult or to bully. It is incorrect to rely on the right of  freedom of speech to insult or to threaten another person. And it is also incorrect to gag the person by imposing the Sedition Act. 

Instead this Government, being an elected government of the people, by the mandate of the people should inspire the people and take responsible steps to ensure people are accountable and responsible when making careless and inconsiderate comments. 

The ICCPR, a Convention of the United Nations also recognises that people who incites hatred, can be taken action against. Article 19 mandates sanctions against people who incites hatred. So, even the progressive organisations like UN which heavily advocates human rights through its documents like the UNDHR acknowledges that the freedom of speech does not include the right to incite hatred. 

You may read more of ICCPR here

In time, we hope the Government of Malaysia will take the lead of appointing leaders who will make responsible comments and would not tacitly promote comments by irresponsible leaders of Organisations, which is calculated to incite hatred and division amongst the people. 




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