Malaysia: Stop stifling social media

Malaysia: Stop stifling social media - Digital

ARTICLE 19 and 66 partner organisations and individuals in civil society have written an open letter to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to express concern for the cabinet’s licensing regime for social media. 

The Madani administration and Communication ministry have had a track record of using its punitive powers to silence criticism and dissent from the people of Malaysia. This latest move by the administration is a blatant abuse of power and poor governance. It is an attack on a healthy, functioning democracy and shrinks public participation.

Rather than fulfilling the reform agenda, the current administration has expanded censorship and curtailed criticism and healthy discourse based on arbitrary definitions of ‘sensitive content’ that are not rooted in international human rights standards and practices.

Despite repeated calls by civil society for freedom of expression to be protected, the Madani administration has backtracked on its commitments in the following ways:

  • The Communications Ministry drafting amendments to expand the powers of the already authoritarian and expansive Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
  • The Communications Ministry and Legal Affairs Division drafting an Online Safety Bill that would further empower the government to suppress online content
  •  The government’s proposed amendments to expand the powers of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 to online media
  • The Home Ministry expanded the powers of the Lembaga Penapisan Filem (LPF) guidelines beyond the scope of the Film Censorship Act to further focus on censorship of public order and security, religion, as well as morality and sociocultural perspectives.
  • The Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara passing a Cyber Security Bill which expands the government’s powers to control any computer-related activities, further serving as another mechanism for online censorship
  • The surge of takedown requests of online content from the government to social media
    • TikTok reported receiving the most takedown requests globally from Malaysia at 1,892 in the second half of 2023, and
    • Meta reported that in the second half of 2023 Malaysia has over 4,700 items reported by MCMC, including items pertaining to hate speech based on religion in violation of Penal Code Section 298A, criticism of the government, and racially or religiously divisive content and bullying content in violation of CMA Sections 233(1)(a) and 211.

Given the above, the standards the Madani administration seeks to uphold when regulating online content must be questioned. While we acknowledge that regulation is essential in mitigating harm online to the general public, their rights must still be upheld. The government proposal to regulate even more content regulation beyond the licensing regime will do more harm than good. It provokes further interrogation of the need for this host of new powers as the current political landscape leans more towards infringing on freedom of expression and speech and introducing political bias.

The undersigned demand the following, with no further delays:

  1. Establish a multistakeholder mechanism for the oversight of content moderation on social media – Social Media Council (SMC) – as an inclusive self-regulatory framework
  2. Invest in media and digital literacy programmes
  3. Institutionalise consultative processes with civil society experts and the public, Rechannel the priorities, focus on institutional reforms, and enable a secure and transparent space for people to engage in open and constructive discussions while upholding democratic values. 

Thus, focus on initiating a comprehensive legislative reform based on Malaysia’s international human rights obligations, and amend or repeal the following laws which have been weaponized to censor lawful content, expression, and speech:

  • Film Censorship Act 2002
  • National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) Act 1981
  • Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972,
  • Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Act 2019,
  • Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984,
  • Sedition Act 1948,
  • Section 211 and 233 Communications and Multimedia Act 1998,
  • Section 114A of the Evidence Act (Amendment) (No.2) 2012,
  • Section 203A of the Penal Code,
  • Section 298A of the Penal Code,
  • Section 500, 504, and 505(b) of the Penal Code.

Establish a moratorium on the use of these laws while undergoing reform initiatives.


Read the report here


Endorsed by: 


  1. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) 
  2. ADHD Queeple 
  3. AIDA (Autism Inclusiveness Direct Action Group)
  4. Aliran 
  5. Alliance of River Three (ART!) 
  6. Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) 
  7. ARTICLE 19 
  8. BebasNews 
  9. Bersih 
  10. Beyond Borders Malaysia 
  11. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) 
  12. Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM) 
  13. Freedom Film Network 
  14. Gerakan Media Merdeka (GERAMM) 
  15. Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo 
  16. HAYAT 
  17. Justice for Sisters 
  18. KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC) 
  19. Klima Action Malaysia – KAMY 
  20. KL Queer Space 
  21. KRYSS Network 
  22. Kuala Lumpur Reporter 
  23. Lawyer Kamek 
  24. Legal Dignity 
  25. MAJU 
  26. MUDA 
  27. North South Initiative 
  28. Our Journey 
  29. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  30. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK, Malaysian Academic Movement) 
  31. Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (ROSE) 
  32. Persatuan Penulis Berbilang Bahasa (PEN Malaysia) 
  33. ReformARTsi 
  34. Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM) 
  35. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia [SABM] 
  37. Sinar Project 
  38. Sisters In Islam (SIS) 
  39. Society of Entrepreneurial Educational Development 
  40. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) 
  41. Suara Siswa Universiti Malaya 
  42. Undi Sabah 
  43. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) 
  44. Women on Web



  1. Ahmad Murad Merican 
  2. Ali bin Alasri 
  3. Beatrice Leong
  4. Beverly Joeman
  5. Bilqis binti Hijjas
  6. Damien Thanam Divean
  7. Dominic Wong
  8. Dr. Mahyuddin Ahmad Abdul Rahman
  9. Dr G Manimaran 
  10. Jayanath Appudurai 
  11. Kalidazsan Guroosamy 
  12. Kamalakannan Veerapathran 
  13. Kennedy Michael 
  14. Lainie Yeoh 
  15. Leben Siddarth 
  16. Lee Jing
  17. Navin Binwan 
  18. Noina Baharuddin 
  19. Rozelina Mahadi 
  20. Sharifah Nur Salina Hussein 
  21. Snow Ng 
  22. Suguna Papachan 
  23. Tan Cher Kian