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On November 22nd, the Malaysian government announced that it will enact new rules for public demonstrations under the Peaceful Assembly Bill. While the legislation recognizes the fundamental right to freedom of assembly, it will be more restrictive than the current law, since it contains troubling provisions, including a ban on street protests.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced September 15 that the government will repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA), along with three emergency provisions, and replace them with two laws to prevent “terrorism, subversive activities and maintain public order.” The ISA and emergency declarations currently allow detention without trial for up to two years, and students, activists and opposition leaders have been arrested as a result. However, the government claims once the ISA and other acts are repealed citizens will no longer be detained strictly based on ideology. The government will also amend the Police Act to better promote freedom of assembly—although street protests would still be considered illegal— and the Printing Presses and Publications Act, to make it easier for outlets to keep their licenses by not requiring annual renewal.

Letter in Response to Malaysian Government’s Crackdown on Rally and Detention of Opposition Leaders, July 15, 2011

Freedom House is extremely disappointed by the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to elect conspicuously unqualified candidates-including Libya


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Special Reports

Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights

Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights examines the human rights implications of domestic blasphemy and religious insult laws using the case studies of seven countries—Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Poland—where such laws exist both on paper and in practice. Without exception, blasphemy laws violate the fundamentalfreedom of expression, as they are by definition intended to protect religious institutions and religious doctrine– i.e., abstract ideas and concepts – from insult or offence. At their most benign, such laws lead to self-censorship.  In Greece and Poland, two of the more democratic countries examined in the study, charges brought against high-profile artists, curators and writers serve as a warning to others that certain topics are off limits. At their worst, in countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia, such laws lead to overt governmental censorship and individuals are both prosecuted and subject to severe criminal penalties including lengthy jail sentences.


Freedom House helps LGBTI rights groups in Southeast Asia to push back against the tide of intolerance.