It was a running joke a few years back that anything bad said about Najib Razak and his entire cabinet could lead to a Sedition Act charge. With the so-called election of a “New Malaysia” government, the calls are already out regarding the disappointment for this law still existing.
With 4 cases now under the Sedition Act regarding the recent resignation/abdication of the Yang DiPertuan Agong (YDPA) as well as one arrested for accusing the government of covering up the death of a fireman killed subsequently during the Seafield Temple Riots, outrage over this existing law is heated.
Meanwhile, employers are also getting shorn by two sides of the argument for suspending, firing or even accepting the resignations of those who went on social media and voiced their personal opinions regarding the YDPA’s resignation/abdication.
Of course, the one piece of missing information from all of this is that the media will not highlight what each and every case said in verbatim because…well, then the media would be charged with Sedition.
And in this sense, Malaysiakini had a stroke of luck when the day the YDPA resigned and the news was published just so happen to coincide with “technical issues” that barred its subscribers with anonymous names (so many Anons you’d think it’s Shakespeare) to comment freely and openly as they do.
It led to one subscriber writing a letter to voice out his ire. And one Jocelyn going to each and every commentable news piece on that day to voice her frustration of “Malaysiakini disallowing comments”.
Thank God for “technical issues” then. If not, the Sedition act would have compelled Kini to out their commenters via their payment records, which would lead to an even larger group of Malaysians getting fined or the gaol.
Although perhaps, having not faced “technical issues”, the comments would have led to a critical mass situation which would have then triggered the Sedition Act to not be used at all?
However, with the Malay Mail openly explaining of a “doxxing” movement on social media for those criticising the King to be reported to PDRM for sedition, it would be pressure on the police in both acting or not acting out.
Unfortunately, the only solace granted was that the PM will define what is seditious to the police, and the Law Minister saying that even if there is a repeal of the Sedition Act, a new law will be compiled to protect the royal institution from criticism.
But is the problem here, with sedition and criticising royalty, simply that? You can’t criticise royalty or the government, and this is seditious?
Perhaps it is something more than that. Perhaps it has to deal with Malaysians and their inability to gauge how something should be said. Perhaps it is because Malaysians believe that anonymity and social media means they can be tactless and vulgar in how they say things to anyone without restraint.
And perhaps Sedition has more to do with how you say something rather than what you said, especially since it depends on whether what was said had an element of incitement.
What does that mean, you might ask?
It’s pretty much the whole “are you sorry or are you not sorry but saying sorry just because it’s a reflex?” kind of situation. Someone bumps into you on a sidewalk and says sorry.
Are they really saying they’re sorry, or are they just saying it as a reflex?
Similarly with the enforcing of the Sedition Act – are the people saying seditious things like talking about the YDPA’s personal habits and actions from a point of fact, or just to be vulgar, tactless, scornful mockery and narcissistically thinking they can get away for being rude?
This is where we differ with other nations, because we are closer to Thailand when it comes to speaking about royalty, in which we promote minding our tongues and fingers.
However, there is a growing population who believe they should be able to speak about Malaysian royalty as rudely, abrasively and vulgarly as they would the person on the street or, to put it in a clear context – like how Malaysiakini’s commenters comment about anyone and anything.
Although to be fair, Kini seems to be filtering out comments recently.