In recent years the word “seditious” has been widely used in the country's judiciary system.

"Seditious" when applied to or used in respect of any act, speech, words, publication or other things which qualifies the act, speech, words, publication or other things as one having a seditious tendency.

A person found guilty of sedition may be sentenced to three years in jail, RM5,000 fine, or both.

What is Sedition Act 1948?

The Sedition Act was enacted by the British colonial government in 1948 to combat the Communists.

The act was amended through an Emergency Ordinance 1971, not long after the riots in May 1969.

What is a “seditious tendency”?

A seditious tendency under Section 3 of the Sedition Act 1948 is defined as the following:

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;

(b) to seek alteration other than by lawful means of any matter by law established;

(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in the country;

(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects;

(e) to promote feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes;

(f) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III (citizenship) of the Federal Constitution, Article 152 (national language), Article 153 (special positions of the Malays and the rights of other races) and Article 181 (the Rulers’ sovereignty)

Repeal of the Sedition Act 1948

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on July 11, 2012, announced the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 which would be replaced with the National Harmony Act.

“With this new act we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines. It will also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony.”

“The provisions proposed in the National Harmony Act will stress on inculcating the spirit of harmony and mutual respect in the Malaysian society made up of various races and religions.”

- Datuk Seri Najib Razak, July 11, 2012

Who has been charged recently under the Sedition Act?

September 2 : Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom – over statements on the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis published in an online news portal on August 14.

August 28 : PKR vice-president and Padang Serai MP N. Surendran faces a second sedition charge - over statement uttered regarding Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy appeal. He however alluded it to a ‘political conspiracy’ involving Putrajaya.

August 27 : DAP’s Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer - over vulgar remarks against UMNO uttered at the Penang state assembly in May.

August 26 : PAS’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad - over remarks on the Sultan of Selangor and the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais).

August 19 : N. Surendran’s first sedition charge– over statements regarding the judgment of the appellate court in Anwar's second sodomy case in a YouTube video.

May 6 : DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok – over a satirical video she was featured in that was said to have insulted the Malay community and the Muslims.

March 11 : The late Karpal Singh was found guilty of sedition for questioning the Sultan of Perak’s action in removing Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the Menteri Besar of Perak in 2009.

May 29, 2013 : PKR vice-president Tian Chua and four activists were charged with sedition for uttering seditious words during forum. The four are PAS member Tamrin Ghafar, Anything But Umno (ABU) founder Haris Ibrahim, Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia president Safwan Anang and Hishamuddin Rais.

* August 27, 2014 : PKR vice-president and Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli was investigated for sedition over his remarks purporting Muslim groups threatening to demonstrate outside churches. He was charged under the Penal Code for creating public disturbances instead.

* August 25, 2014: Former Perak MP and Changkat Jering assemblyman Nizar was charged with criminal defamation of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

National Harmony Act Bill

The National Harmony Act Bill is proposed to replace the Sedition Act 1948.

‘The Sedition Act will be replaced by the National Harmony Bill. The Bill is intended to be a comprehensive, fair and lasting piece of legislation that promotes national harmony whilst protecting Malaysian citizens from racial or religious hatred.”

- Statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on August 30, 2014

When will the Bill be introduced?

The government said it hopes to present the draft of the Bill to Parliament by the end of 2015.

Until the new legislation is in place, the existing cases would be tried under the existing laws.

‘The drafting of the National Harmony Bill is taking time because it is being done in consultation with civil society and the public.

A number of recommendations have been received, including from the National Unity Consultative Council, and are currently being studied. Like other countries, we are working to find the right balance between freedom of speech and national harmony in the age of online media.”

- Statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on August 30, 2014