Malaysia: LRWC Applauds Discontinuance of Sedition Act Prosecution of Dr. Azmi Sharom and Calls for Withdrawal of Sedition Charges against Others Wrongly Prosecuted | Press Release

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18 February 2016 – LRWC Applauds Discontinuance of Sedition Act prosecution of Dr. Azmi Sharom and calls for withdrawal of sedition charges against others wrongly prosecuted.

On 12 February 2016, Malaysia’s Attorney General dropped charges of sedition against Dr. Azmi Sharom.[1]

LRWC welcomes the discontinuance of the sedition prosecution of Dr. Sharom and calls for the immediate withdrawal of Sedition Act charges against lawyers Eric Paulsen and N. Surendran and others. The Sedition Act is being used by Malaysian authorities to silence and punish critics for being good citizens and voicing opinions about issues of public concern.

In September 2014, Dr. Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya, was charged under Section 4(1) (b) and Section 4(1) (c) of the Sedition Act for comments he had allegedly made at a political event five years earlier. The charges were laid after an online news outlet published Dr. Sharom’s legal analysis of a crisis in Malaysia’s Selangor.[2] In expressing shock at this charge, Dr. Azmi stated that his comments were based on established case law and democratic principles.

Dr Sharom subsequently brought a constitutional challenge of the Sedition Act in October 2014, but his petition was rejected by the Federal Court in October 2015.[3]

However, on February 12, 2016, Malaysia’s Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali decided to “discontinue prosecuting” Dr. Sharom and advised that his chambers would close the case against him. The Attorney General stated, “in the interest of justice and after examining the evidence given by the prosecution’s witnesses in court, I am using my discretion under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution and decide to drop the charges against Dr. Azmi.[4]

Sedition laws are almost universally viewed to be obsolete in common law jurisdictions,[5] except when there is evidence of the intention and capacity to incite the violent overthrow of the lawful government.[6] Malaysia’s Sedition Act 1948 has been widely identified by states, legal specialists and United Nations reports as a tool used illegitimately to restrict freedom of expression in a manner inconsistent with international standards and Malaysia’s international law commitments.

CONTACT LRWC at; Tel: +1 604 736 1175: Fax: +1 604 736 1170

[1] Sumisha Naidu, “Sedition charges against Malaysian law lecturer dropped”, Channel News Asia (February 12, 2016), online:

[2] In Sharom’s analysis, he cited a 2009 constitutional crisis in Perak in which Karpal Singh a human rights lawyer had voiced an opinion about the authority of the Sultan of Perak. More information at “A-G drops sedition charge against Azmi Sharom”, The Malaysian Insider (February 12, 2016), online:

[3] Ida Lim, “Federal Court rules Sedition Act constitutional, UM’s Azmi Sharom to stand trial”, The Malay Mail (October 6, 2015), online:

[4] Supra note 1.

[5] Consider, e.g. “The offence of seditious libel is now obsolescent” Lord Denning, Landmarks in the Law, (London, Butterworths, 1984) at 295; “there is almost complete agreement in the common law jurisdictions that sedition should be made obsolete” L.W. Maher, ‘The Use and Abuse of Sedition’ (1992), 14 Sydney L.R. 287 at 312.

[6] Boucher v The King, [1951] SCR. 265 at 285-286, per Watkins L.J.