‘Black day’ for free speech as Malaysia amends sedition law; using ‘protecting Islam’ as excuse

Anti-Obama protesters gather outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur on April 18, 2014. Obama was said to be an “enemy of Islam.” Source.

Malaysia’s parliament Friday approved tougher penalties for sedition in a move criticised by the United Nations and described by the opposition as “a black day” for democracy and free expression.

Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the amendments — which extend the maximum jail term to 20 years from three years and establish a minimum three-year jail term for certain cases — as essential to maintaining stability.

But rights groups said the revised act could be used to censor the Internet by making it illegal to propagate sedition online, and the hazy definition of “sedition” remains open to abuse by the government…

…The changes come as Najib is facing mounting calls for him to step down after a slew of corruption scandals and a crackdown on civil liberties since the ruling government saw voter support slide in Malaysia’s last election.

Opponents of the Muslim-controlled government say it is increasingly falling back on “protecting Islam” as an argument to curb speech by members of the religiously diverse opposition…