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Malaysian Parliament Reaffirms Commitment to Freedom of Expression

UNESCO Jakarta, SUHAKAM, and the Parliament of Malaysia made history yesterday by holding the first-ever “Roundtable with Parliamentarians: Aligning National Laws with International Standards on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information, and Press Freedom” in Kuala Lumpur on 25 September.

“The recently elected government of Malaysia has made a pledge to review, repeal, and abolish statutes deemed oppressive…these include those that curtail freedom of expression” said H.E. Mohamad Ariff Md.Yusof who is the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives).

The Speaker of the House welcomed the effort of UNESCO and SUHAKAM (National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) in organizing the roundtable this Malaysia noting that “there is no better time than now to have this roundtable with parliamentarians”.

“UNESCO welcomes this new area of collaboration with the Parliament and SUHAKAM to strengthen freedom of expression in Malaysia” said Dr. Ming-Kuok LIM, the Advisor for Communication and Information for the UNESCO Jakarta who delivered the welcome remarks on behalf of the Director and Representative of UNESCO Jakarta office.

The roundtable saw a lively exchange between the parliamentarians and eleven experts from Malaysia as well as from abroad. The participants discussed on a broad range of issues including such as how to define freedom of expression, what are the benefits and challenges to enacting an access to information law, what are the various perspectives on decriminalization of defamation, and lastly on self-regulation of the media.

The event was well attended by nearly a hundred Members of Parliament, Senators, Backbenchers, and representatives from 32 offices. High-level Malaysian speakers included Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi of the University of Malaya, H.E. Steven Sim who is the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. A.Kadir Jasin, the Media Advisor for the Prime Minister, and Mr. Edmund Bon, the Representative of Malaysia to the AICHR.

This roundtable followed the IPDC Talks event which took place one day earlier done in partnership with the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) and the national broadcaster, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).