Challenge to Malaysia’s sedition law, dismissed

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Many of the cases being brought under the act concern criticism of the ruling party or the prime minister, Najib Razak. Photograph: Li Muzi/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Many of the cases being brought under the act concern criticism of the ruling party or the prime minister, Najib Razak. Photograph: Li Muzi/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Many of the cases being brought under the act concern criticism of the ruling party or the prime minister, Najib Razak. Photograph: Li Muzi/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Malaysia’s federal court has dismissed a challenge that a sedition law implemented under the British empire is unconstitutional, prolonging the government’s ability to quell political opposition. Law lecturer Azmi Sharom challenged the constitutionality of the 1948 Sedition Act after he was charged over an article he wrote about the Sultan of Perak, one of the south-east Asian nation’s constitutional monarchs.

If convicted, Azmi will face three years in prison or a maximum fine of RM5,000 (£757), or both. The ruling will affect around 30 politicians and activists who have been charged under the act during the past year in what Malaysian media largely refer to as a “sedition dragnet”. Many of the cases concern criticism of the ruling party or the prime minister, Najib Razak, who has cracked down on dissent in the wake of the worst financial scandal of his career. All five judges in the federal court ruled that the act does not contradict article 10 of Malaysia’s constitution, which details freedoms of speech, assembly and association.