In Malaysia, the meaning of speech and expression has no different. The Federal Constitution guarantees the public shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression by communicating and provide opinions in any medium. However, whoever misused and caused any negativity to the society, that particular person will be punished with fines or with imprisonment or with both according to the law.
Freedom of speech and expression is not absolute because that freedom is subject to several restrictions and it hedged against defamation act, sedition act, and printing presses and publications act. Base on the case, the ‘Alvivi’ couple was charged under the Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for seditiously posting on Facebook by uploading a photo of themselves eating a pork dish with the caption of ‘Selamat Berbuka Puasa with Bak Kut Teh… fragrant, delicious and appetising!’ together with the ‘halal’ logo.
Although the photo looks harmless, but the hidden meaning of the photo is directly insult the religious background. Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee May Ling were accused of insulting Islam during the holy month of Ramadan. They also charged under subsection 5(1) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 (Act 620) for showing pornographic images on their social network page. It seems to be a joke but it alienates the relationship between the religions in Malaysia. After this incident, it leads hatred from the society towards them, especially from the Muslims and Chinese. Fortunately, there are no racial disputes between Malaysians had arisen (Karim, 2016).
The Restriction to Article 10 particularly the Sedition Act helps to maintain the society. It enables to take legal action in a court against any particular person who made statements which disobey the public order which involves consideration of public safety and morality such as bully, verbal abuse, rude behaviour, etc. Some communities think that the existence of the Sedition Act obstructed the freedom of speech and expression. However, in Malaysia, living in peace and harmony with different religious, the subject of talk might easily touch on religious sensitivities especially through the internet (Astro Awani, 2014). Therefore, it is important to strengthen the Sedition Act among Malaysia’s multiracial society (Astro Awani, 2014). Freedom of speech and expression cannot be underrated to avert widespread the violence among racial and ethnic groups (Randhawa, 2018).
For some other examples of sedition case in Malaysia, Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, a cartoonist was charged for publishing Cartoon-O-Phobia book deemed detrimental to the public order in the year 2010, Sri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei was charged for allegedly posting seditious material about the Sultan of Selangor on his blog in the year 2011, David Orok, a politician of State Reform Party was charged for insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page in the year 2014, etc. Along with all the sedition cases, people should be wise in differentiating freedom of speech and expression from seditious statements. Freedom of speech and expression in a civilised society should be used to urge people to remain united and preserve peace, but not making rumours or propaganda which will hurt the feelings and cause conflict and disunity among each other (Malay Mail, 2014). In a conclusion, although the public has the right to speak and express freely, but it still needs to be entrenched in the constitutional law in order to avoid the causing of political problems and racism in this multicultural country. Everyone should not take the law into their own hands as this could interrupt the public order. Everyone should be respected as an individual, with the in-depth knowledge of what to speak and what not to speak therefore it will not humiliates anyone.
Through the “Alvivi” case, it is clearly seditious libel, because it might cause public disorder among the society to rise. Freedom of speech and expression should not be absolute in nature in order to maintain peace and harmony of the country because there are existing laws in place to ensure it is not misused.