Freedom of Speech and The National Security of Countries. The Case of Malaysia

Academic Paper, 2019

13 Pages, Grade: 3.70


Table of Contents


Freedom of Speech & National Security




This write up will be explaining on freedom of speech which will be connected to the national security of countries. Cases and events will be listed out to understand better on the mixture of free speech and how it affects the security of a nation. The examples shown later are based on how freedom of speech is restricted based on different agendas, positive and negative. Finally, in the conclusion segment, the answer on the best way for the nation to approach freedom of speech so it will not threaten the existing national security of any country.

Freedom of Speech & National Security

Freedom of speech is basically the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds and means. It is a right to an expression which is applied to all kinds of ideas and this will be troublesome if it is considered offensive. It is a huge responsibility for every human being because it may, can and will be restricted if its uncontrolled. For every country, freedom of speech is controlled by the law and the government. Different countries, different limitations on freedom of speech. These limitations or restrictions can be legitimize to protect specific public interest or reputation of individuals. Then again, to avoid from misuse of restrictions, safeguards for freedom of speech should be incorporated. In coherence, freedom of speech is one of the most important rights but it is also usually misunderstood. (Matronic, 2018).

Shifting the context to the national security. National security is a necessity for every country to survive by the usage of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept is mostly made in United States after World War 2 and in order for a country to have national security, it must acquire economic security, energy security, environmental security and others. It is mostly on protecting confidential information by using counter-intelligence services or secret police services to protect the nation from internal threats. (ScienceDaily, 2018). Internal threats can be many when an individual brings out freedom of expression, especially when the whole nation is involved. It will bring forth a dissension and conflict between the priority of human rights and the security of a country.

It can be said that the most serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms are often justified by governments as necessary to protect national security. In most countries, political leaders nominate themselves to be responsible for defining the "national interest" or "security threats" of countries and, based on their beliefs, begin to violate human rights. "Even in liberal democracies, inaccurate perceptions of threats to national security and insecurity can weaken and destabilize citizen support for international law and democratic values.” (Glenn Worthington, 2007). These definitions of "national security" are often unclear, and there are a number of questions to be asked in this context, such as the "security of what/who", is the security of citizens, the security of the government, or the territory of the state, or its borders.

Moreover, when the views and expressions are in conflict with the national policies of the State, they are more likely to violate the right to freedom of opinion and expression, although national security should mean that the State is committed to providing greater security to its citizens, more rights, not less. Governments change over time and national policies change according to the different freedoms and human rights. The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom of the press, is a fundamental right. Although international law allows for limited restrictions, these restrictions must be construed narrowly and strictly justified in favour of freedom of expression by various international and domestic courts. Consequently, there is a great responsibility for the judiciary and the legal system to protect rights and freedoms. (Human Rights Council, 2005).

A French magazine act (Charlie Hebdo’s, 2006) which was given the name of ‘freedom of speech’ was in fact a freedom to insult according to Muslim community. They published the cartoons of a highly revered personality in Islam; Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This act is not only forbidden in Islam but also caused many Muslims to suffer emotional pain and resentment at such an open exhibition of hatred in the name of freedom of expression. Ironically, in the same magazine (2008), they fired one of its cartoonists for publishing ‘anti-Semitic’ statement. On the other hand, this is also true that it has the past of issuing cartoons or articles that mock other religions. Prophet (PBUH) is the central figure of Islam and Muslims love and respect him more than themselves, their parents and their children. When nobody likes it when some person mocks or criticizes them or their families, then how can the magazine name it ‘freedom of speech’ by cartooning a sacred human in an improper way. This defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) caused indignation among many young Muslims who felt alienated at the spread of hate speech in the name of ‘freedom of expression’. Although the terrorist attack on the magazine is equally condemnable and cannot be justified in any case. Then again, had the magazine exhibited some responsibilities in the usage of ‘freedom of expression’, this world would have escaped a horrific terror attack.

Talking and doing are two differentiating things. Nobody has the authority to alter what is, as you would like to think. However, an issue emerge when you follow up on it and uphold your opinion on others. The way Charlie Hebdo communicates which they called their 'sentiment' was absolutely wrong and unsatisfactory by Muslims. Another example is President Donald Trump. A popular name and Republican Presidential competitor of 2016 presidential elections of the USA is famous for his racist remarks. He declined to lease homes to black people, he declined to denounce the viciousness against Muslim Americans and African-Americans executed by his supporters, he requested to prohibit Muslims from America and he taunts Chinese and Japanese for their heritage and English. Incongruity with his supporters label everything as ‘freedom of speech’ however in genuine, it is his hating that contains no restrictions.

We are a nation of laws, some of which we don't agree with, but supposedly, protect us and benefit us. This is not the case for the Palestinians, since they are under a regime or occupation they did not choose. They are forced to abide by Israeli law and any expression of opinions whether through demonstrations or the media and this can lead to prison sentences. Ahed Tamimi, a 16 years old Palestinian girl, had been detained during a pre-dawn raid on her home by the Israeli army and border police in the occupied West Bank. Ahed's mother, Nariman, was also arrested after during her visit to Ahed at an Israeli police station because she filmed the raid on her house and publishing it on social media. (The Guardian, 2017). Also, the Israeli authorities have carried out nearly 5,700 cases of arrests since 2015 on charges of incitement on the Facebook social networking site. The Palestinian Authority pointed out that "an Israeli special unit in the Israeli army's staff called Cyber ​​(Unit 8200) monitors all activities, views, solidarity operations, expression of opinion and positions issued by the Palestinians, and carry out arrest campaigns for the most trivial reasons as posting an image of a martyr or a prisoner on the site, or condemn the Israeli practices and violations of the occupying forces escalating rights of the Palestinian people. The Israeli courts, banned those who were released from detention from using social media for periods specified by the courts themselves. (Middle Eastern Monitor, 2017). Another example of freedom of speech cases that includes multi-cultural unity would be in Malaysia.

The nation of Malaysia is widely known for its intercultural values of various kinds of races. The race of Malay, Chinese and Indians have lived in harmony for 61 years and counting. Now, when different kind of races are living together in a country, there will an obvious different kind of ideation, perception, thoughts and even beliefs. Well, due to the occurrence, there will be communities that gives out freedom of speech in producing words on what they thought was right. Freedom of speech in Malaysia is usually accepted unless it involves the government. Any types of freedom of speech will eventually cause trouble and the government will conclude it as a national security outbreak in Malaysia. Then again, before this, the community is afraid of bringing a freedom of speech concept towards the government when the previous ruling government party “Barisan Nasional” (BN) was in charge. It is because the misuse of power by the government in placing any individual in jail for having or giving opinions on them at that time. May 9th, 2018 marks the date whereby Malaysians acted and save Malaysia from being plundered by a kleptocratic regime of BN and being denied from freedom of speech. (Sukumaran, 2018).

These days freedom of speech can be used in any types of form because Malaysians believe that they are the power that makes Malaysia truly Asia. Moving on, there are many forms of free of speech that is happening in Malaysia. For instance, rally campaign, social media platforms and even art. One of the famous rally campaigns that has ever been done in Malaysia is Bersih 2.0 which meant clean in English. Bersih 2.0 is an alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations and civil society groups that wants electoral reform in Malaysia. There are four versions of this rally which is Bersih 2.0 held at November 10, 2007, Bersih 3.0 held on April 28, 2012, Bersih 4 held on August 29, 2015 and Bersih 5 held on November 19, 2016. This rally campaign went viral worldwide due to the government opposing the rally, objective of the rally that connects to the 1MDB crisis and Malaysians living overseas participating in movement. (Shuib, 2016). Next would be social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The freedom of speech that is going throughout these platforms are uncontrollable even for Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). An example of a case that happened is when a 19-year old boy was sentenced to a year in prison for insulting the royal family of Johor. Muhammad Amirul Azwan Mohd Shakri had 14 charges against him under Malaysia’s multimedia laws that prohibits online users to post content that is offensive and upsetting. Regarding the case, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim commented on the decision in putting the 19 year old in jail by asking on Twitter whether the Multimedia Act was only to protect Malaysia aristocracy and top leaders. (Ho, 2016).


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Freedom of Speech and The National Security of Countries. The Case of Malaysia
International University of Malaya-Wales
Master of Arts (Professional Communication)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Freedom Of Speech
Quote paper
Abang Ehsan (Author), 2019, Freedom of Speech and The National Security of Countries. The Case of Malaysia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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