KUALA LUMPUR: It will no longer be an offence to incite hatred, contempt or disaffection against the Government, or the administration of justice in the country under proposed amendments to the Sedition Act 1948.
In a move to promote a more transparent and responsive administration, the public will be at liberty to give feedback or criticise the Government.
However, the Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 seeks to penalise any person who promotes feelings of hostility between persons or groups on the grounds of religion.
This measure, the Government says, is needed to protect the sanctity of religious faiths of a multi-cultural Malaysia.
To avoid ambiguity when it comes to Islam, religion also refers to syariah laws and shall not include any deviant teachings, the Bill reads.
It also seeks to make it an offence for any person or group to demand for the secession of any state from Malaysia.
The Bill was tabled for the first reading by Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The enhanced measures and penalties in the Bill aim to deal with threats against peace, public order and security in the nation, in particular through "irresponsible misuse of social media to spread divisiveness and insult race, religion and culture without regard to consequences".
On the flip side, the amendments proposed that bail be denied to those charged with sedition.
The proposed new Section 5A states that bail would not be given if the Public Prosecutor decides that it is not in the public interest to grant bail to the accused person.
This section seeks to impose a higher penalty for offences related to sedition involving bodily injury and damage to property.
Section 5B seeks to empower the court to prevent an accused who is released on bail from leaving the country.
Clause 8 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 10 of the current Act to empower the court to issue an order to remove seditious publications made by electronic means, such as online publications.
A new Section 10B empowers the court to issue an order under the Communications and Multimedia Act to prevent access to such publications if the perpetrator cannot be identified.
However, no person shall be convicted of any offence if the person proves that the alleged seditious publication was produced without his authority, consent and knowledge, and that he had no reasonable grounds to believe the publication had a seditious tendency.