Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that a six-decade-old law that impeded freedom of speech would be abolished.
The colonial-era Sedition Act, which criminalises speech or publication that incites hatred, would be replaced by a more liberal law that balances between the freedom of speech and protecting racial and religious harmony in the culturally diverse country, reported Xinhua.
The new National Harmony Act allows the government to act against those who incite hatred against the King and bring up sensitive topics that damage the race relations in the cultural diverse country.
"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," Najib said in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night.
Najib said in the absence of the ideal balance, freedom of speech would be suppressed, creativity hindered and the spirit of chauvinism and extremism promoted.
The government had overhauled since late last year scores of outdated security policies, including the controversial Internal Security Act as part of Najib's political transformation plan ahead of a looming election due before April next year.
Parliament had since earlier this year passed new laws that allow peaceful public gatherings, university students' participation in the political arena and cancel the requirement for press organisations to renew their operating licenses annually.
First Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 13:37