HRC40: Oral statement on interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights on Item 3

Civic Space 3 min read
ARTICLE 19

Summary

ARTICLE 19 delivered the following statement to the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights on item 3, highlighting the freedom of expression concerns in Malaysia after the Special Rapporteur’s country visit.

Mr. Vice President,

In the last decade, the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights has made significant contributions to increasing our understanding of Article 27 of the UDHR. In relation to artistic and creative expression, the human rights challenges posed by intellectual property regimes in the digital sphere, and the need to tackle cultural relativism and fundamentalism as a threat to universality, remain important to our work as a freedom of expression and human rights organisation.

In Malaysia, a new government has committed to a reform agenda since your visit, but these efforts have largely stalled. Bold steps are needed to ensure the hope and momentum following last year’s elections are not lost.

ARTICLE 19 engaged last year with the Institutional Reform Committee on many of the same concerns you also highlight in your country visit report. While this engagement was positive, the finalised report of that Committee remains secret.

We ask the Special Rapporteur if she can join us in calling for the release of this report.

We agree with SUHAKAM that the government must promote an informed public debate on the ratification of international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The continued use of the Sedition Act, and failures to secure the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act, are serious concerns. Pending the repeal or reform of various pieces of restrictive legislation (the Sedition Act, the Anti-Fake News Act, the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998, Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971), a new moratorium on the enforcement of all provisions that violate international human rights law is essential.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur that “harmony cannot mean silence”, yet in Malaysia “causing disharmony” is a criminal offence under Section 298A of the Penal Code, and has frequently been used to silence minority and dissenting views. Repealing the Sedition Act without addressing the Penal Code will not be enough.

In light of challenges to cultural pluralism, inclusion, and diversity, in particular for religious minorities, women, and LGBTI people, we ask the Special Rapporteur what is needed to ensure the proposed “National Harmony Act” does not compound existing problems.

Would she agree that HRC Resolutions 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action provide a framework for reform, and what role could SUHAKAM, and her mandate, have in assisting in these reforms?

Thank you.