Today, ARTICLE 19 and 83 other human rights, humanitarian and civil society organisations sent an open letter to the Prime Minister of Malaysia urging action to address the recent proliferation of ‘hate speech’ and violent threats against Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Starting in the third week of April 2020, hateful messages targeting the Rohingya community in Malaysia have proliferated on social media platforms. Many posts included discriminatory and dehumanising language and images as well as calls for Rohingya in Malaysia to be forcibly returned to Myanmar. Numerous online petitions calling for the expulsion of Rohingya were launched on Change.org and other platforms. Some petitions garnered thousands of signatures. Online users threatened prominent Rohingya activists, as well as their supporters, with physical attacks, murder and sexual violence.
The signatories of the letter urged the Prime Minister to, among other actions, speak out in support of the rights of the Rohingya, challenge false or discriminatory narratives, and lead the development and implementation of a holistic set of measures to address ‘hate speech’, intolerance and discrimination.
Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme, said:
“The Rohingya have fled horrific violence and decades of rights violations in Myanmar and now face threats and discrimination wherever they go. The Prime Minister should lead by example and unequivocally condemn the hateful rhetoric now being directed at the Rohingya population in Malaysia.”
“There is a real risk that the discriminatory and dehumanising language circulating on social media platforms and elsewhere sparks violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya. Immediate action is needed to reduce the risk of violent conflict, and longer-term initiatives should be undertaken to address the root causes of hate speech and intolerance.”