Groups to educate public on info rights to counter planned OSA amendments

PETALING JAYA, May 12 ― Transparency and anti-corruption groups will educate the public on their legal rights to information to counter Putrajaya’s proposal for a stricter Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972.

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said the goal of the “Right 2 Know Malaysia” movement was to raise awareness about existing freedom of information (FOI) laws, with an eye on encouraging Putrajaya to adopt such legislation.

C4 chief Cynthia Gabriel labelled the plan to include life sentences and whipping as penalties under the OSA made it imperative for the public to know of their avenues to access government data.

“Hopefully this campaign can lead to public pressure for the federal government to create a federal-level FOI and abolish secrecy laws, especially the OSA and Sedition Act,” C4 freedom of information officer Simitha Singham said.

Right 2 Know Malaysia campaign is a collaboration between C4 and transparency advocacy group Sinar Project, and will start with workshops in Selangor and Penang on FOI laws in the two states.

These will encourage the public to apply for information under the laws as well as help them navigate the bureaucracy.

Under the FOI laws in the two states, the public can request for certain government information that is otherwise not released.

On February, Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali reportedly said he will consider seeking an increase to the penalties available against those who leaked official secrets, including raising the sentences to life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane.

According to the Chinese language Sin Chew Daily, Apandi said the proposed amendments to the Official Secrets Act will also include journalists who refuse to identify the sources of the leaked information.

The AG also said that there is no right to information according to the Federal Constitution.