- Advertisement -

Groups dismayed by Anwar's failure to protect human rights

Five civil society groups supportive of the prime minister's reform promises say it has been a disappointing two years.

2 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

More civil society organisations that had previously expressed hopes for reform under Anwar Ibrahim have joined the growing criticism of the prime minister, saying that the government continues to use various laws and undemocratic methods to silence its critics.

In a joint statement, five groups said Anwar's government was undermining civil liberties and the protection of human rights, pointing to Putrajaya's refusal to accept recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council.

"Since the Anwar Ibrahim government came to power, our organisations have documented how the state has continued using these laws to criminalise human rights defenders, the opposition, and critics," said the statement by Civicus, Suaram, Centre for Independent Journalism, Forum-Asia and Article 19.

They stated that the government's actions are inconsistent with its claims of reform, citing in particular the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), which has often been used to stifle dissent online by blocking social media posts and critical websites.

"The CMA in particular is one of the most significant threats to freedom of expression in Malaysia. It has been used to criminalise online expression and block social media posts, critical websites, and blogs," said the statement.

It comes as police and officers from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided the home of prominent activist Hishamuddin Rais yesterday over his critical blog posts about Anwar.

His lawyer Zaid Malek said about 10 officers took part in the search of Hishamuddin's home as part of an investigation under Section 233 of the CMA.

"This was clearly a strong-arm tactic to intimidate Hishamuddin. The investigation is an outrage," Zaid said.

This year, the UN Human Rights Council made 348 recommendations on civic freedoms as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), including a call on member states to ratify human rights treaties, repeal restrictive laws and ensureng the protection of human rights defenders.

The groups pointed out that under the previous Pakatan Harapan government of Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2018, Putrajaya adopted the UPR recommendations to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"However, the government appears to have backtracked on this commitment by failing to accept recommendations to do so, making the country an outlier on this key treaty," they added.

"The government also did not accept recommendations to revise the Peaceful Assembly Act, which is discriminatory and has been used to restrict and criminalise protests"

They said that since coming to power, Anwar's government has continued to harass participants of peaceful protests, with police summoning activists for questioning over gatherings in support of women’s rights, labour rights and land rights as well as to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The groups said the government can start by ratifying ICCPR and "immediately review and abolish restrictive laws that silence dissent".

"We also urge the government to create an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders to carry out their fundamental work to promote and protect human rights," they added.