A Review of National Laws on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Malaysia

Laws have profound impact on the lives of the people living in a country. They have the potential to positively or negatively affect people’s enjoyment of fundamental freedoms including the basic right to freedom of expression which is often called the right that enables other rights.


In this regard, UNESCO supported the Kuala Lumpur-based the C4 Center (the Center to Combat Corruption and Croynism) in carrying out a review of national laws in Malaysia that are yet to be aligned with international standards on freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom.


The review paper, launched at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on 12 April 2019, analysed twelve federal and state level laws and policy in Malaysia related to freedom of expression. It includes a section on how the respective laws measure against international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as UNESCO’s various resolutions and declarations.


Ms Cynthia Gabriel, the Executive Director of the C4 Center. opened the event and reiterated the importance of a comprehensive legal reform in the country to ensure democratic space and mechanisms are further strengthened and promoted.


During the panel discussion, Mr Edmund Bon, a prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer, argued that for a full reform of the democratic space, it must necessarily include legal as well as constitutional amendment. Mr Khairil Yusof from the transparency portal, Sinar Project, argued for the need to have transparent and clear procedures in how public fund is being used especially in large-scale infrastructure projects which requires a comprehensive access to information law to be enacted. Ms Serene Lim, from the youth-oriented organization KRYSS (Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces), urged for a better framing of human rights issues including gender and youth issues in the media.


This current review is part of the ongoing UNESCO’s support in Malaysia to strengthen freedom of expression space in the country. Previously, UNESCO through its Office in Jakarta has supported a “Roundtable with Parliamentarians: Aligning National Laws with International Standards on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information” and a “Judicial Colloquium on Applying International Human Rights Standards”.


UNESCO is the specialized United Nation agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression including its corollaries of access to information and press freedom. It is also the global facilitator for the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.