Malaysia minister defends sedition laws, citing social media threats

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 were necessary to protect Malaysians of all races and religions, especially against threats carried out on social media.

Malaysia's Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stressed that there were four main reasons as to why the amendments were made, listing social media threats as among the grounds.

"The offences used to only be done through mainstream channels like print and electronic media or ceramah but nowadays, all that can be done on social media," he said at a press conference at Johor police headquarters here on Saturday.

He added that the last time the Act was amended was in 1975 and that it was time for changes to be made to suit the times.

The amendments, he said, were also meant to address individuals and groups who had urged for states to be separated from Malaysia as well as to handle offences that could lead to property damage.

"Yes there are other laws in the Penal Code that can handle all that but not much can be done if the offences were committed on social media and that is what the Sedition Act is for," Dr Ahmad Zahid said.

He said that the amended Act was not meant to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA) as and that it was more preventive in nature and to avoid future problems.

Dr Ahmad Zahid added that the Government wanted to avoid such problems in future because the multi-cultural and religious harmony of Malaysians made it necessary for such amendments to the Act to be made.

The Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 was passed by the Dewan Rakyat at 2.30am Friday after a gruelling 12-hour debate.