This weekend there was a 34-hour rally protesting political corruption in Malaysia. Called “Bersih 4.0” (Bersih means “clean” in Malay), the rally took place in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, and 70 cities around the world — with 500,000 people participating in Kuala Lumpur alone.
Despite the fact that the Malaysian government deemed the protest illegal, the mass protest took place without incident. The rally’s organizers peacefully pushed for transparent governance and protection for the right to dissent, an important aspect of freedom of expression.
We applaud the government’s decision to uphold the right to freedom of assembly in this instance, but we also reiterate that all rights that apply offline also apply online. There is still much more to be done. The government of Malaysia should act upon the recommendations in the joint letter we sent on Friday with Article 19, the Association for Progressive Communications, and Human Rights Watch. It should:
- revoke its blocking order on Sarawak Report, and refrain from further website blocking;
- lift the suspensions of the Edge Media’s publishing permits, and repeal all registration requirements for media entities and any power to suspend or ban publications;
- revoke its arrest warrant for Sarawak Report founder Clare Rewcastle-Brown;
- ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the optional protocols thereto; and
- review all national laws governing freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to ensure their compliance with international human rights law.