Comprehensive laws needed to regulate hate speech, says think tank

A THINK tank today called for a thorough review of existing hate speech legislation as it was vague and could lead to inconsistent enforcement.

The Social and Economic Research Initiative (SERI) said at present, Malaysia does not have a comprehensive law regulating hate speech as it is dealt by several laws.

These include The Sedition Act, The Communications and Multimedia Act, The Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Penal Code

“The significance of the recent spate of violence associated with the KK Mart socks issue is that existing policies need to be strengthened to ensure national unity and harmony.

“In March of this year, the Minister of National Unity announced the ongoing study of a Harmony Charter, intended to provide a comprehensive framework for fostering unity across the nation.

“While SERI wholeheartedly endorses the implementation of this charter, it is crucial that beyond mere symbolism, it is developed into a tangible set of actions with meaningful impact on the nation,“ it said in a statement.

SERI said the Harmony Charter must be complemented by the introduction of the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, originally introduced in 2019 as a Private Member’s Bill.

The Bill aims to establish the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission, charged with the vital role of fostering national harmony, unity, reconciliation, integration, equality, and non-discrimination.

“Additionally, the Commission is mandated to raise awareness and provide education on these matters.

“The Commission should also comprise diverse representatives from various ethnic and religious backgrounds in Malaysia. This inclusive composition would enable them to effectively advise, assist, and make recommendations to the government on matters crucial to national unity,“.

SERI also said that moments of unity, such as those experienced during sports events, should be amplified.

“Beyond sports, cultural festivals and celebrations offer an excellent avenue for nurturing unity.

The tradition of open houses is deeply ingrained in Malaysian culture, observed during festivities such as Hari Raya, Deepavali, or Chinese New Year.

As the month of Ramadan draws to a close, SERI hopes that this period of spiritual reflection and celebration be extended beyond ourselves as individuals, to also celebrate the colour and diversity that makes us uniquely Malaysian,“.

SERI is a non-partisan think-tank dedicated to the promotion of evidence-based policies that address issues of inequality, particularly at the intersection of technology and society.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar was recently appointed as the chairman of SERI.