A year on from Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim being sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister and forming a unity government, ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS believe there has been a lack of progress in undertaking reforms to ensure better human rights protection. At the same time, authorities have continued to restrict fundamental freedoms.
While we note some positive steps, such as the legal reforms passed in April 2023 to remove the mandatory death penalty and reduce the number of offences punishable by death, commitments from Azalina Othman, the minister in the Prime Minister Department (Law and Institutional Reform), in July 2023 to review several existing laws linked to race, religion and royalty (known as 3R issues), as well as the Prime Minister’s announcement in September 2023 that the government has agreed in principle to enact the freedom of information act, the government still needs to do more to ensure human rights reforms in the country.
As with previous governments, the current government does not appear to tolerate criticism, scrutiny, accountability, or dissenting opinions. In the past year, the government has repeatedly suppressed freedom of expression and assembly. This has included targeting human rights defenders, filmmakers, LGBTQI communities, and other minorities that seek to promote and protect human rights, prosecuting them under Malaysia’s many repressive laws. People’s attempts to peacefully assemble have faced restrictions, while the media have faced challenges in undertaking work, including having their content blocked.
As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the government’s actions to stifle freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are inconsistent with the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments made to the international community. We urge the government to halt the ongoing clampdown on civic space and take steps to reform laws and policies used to stifle dissent.