Freedom of Political Speech and Social Responsibility in Malaysia has been inspired by a series of key political events that happened in Malaysia throughout the author’s career as a student (leader) and later as a political scientist. It has taken a very long process and time almost nine years to finish writing and publishing the book. The author got the idea to write this book when he was a political science student at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at the end of 1998. During that time, the author witnessed students from almost all universities in the Kelang Valley protesting in the streets against Mahathir Mohamad’s decision in sacking and detaining Anwar Ibrahim, his deputy prime minister.
Then, the Reformasi movement emerged with series of demonstrations, some turning into riots, protesting against the government’s decision to imprison Anwar with charges of sexual misconduct and corruption, and the way Anwar was being treated with a black eye as published in the magazines worldwide. Later, the opposition, PAS, DAP, and Keadilan (PKR), and the civil society demanded more space for them to express their political views in the mainstream media and to uphold the universal rights for free speech.
Even though these events gave the author an insight into the importance of political freedom and freedom of speech, he was not sure how far we should go. Is free speech good for the multiracial society in Malaysia? How far is the legitimate limit or boundary for applying this right? What about harmful speech, hate speech and pornography, and do we need such harmful speech in order for us to become a real democratic state?
There were a lot of restrictions from restrictive laws, blackout or negative coverage in the media, and banning of public gatherings for the opposition who deserve political freedom. Do we need such restrictions to ensure racial harmony, political stability, and economic prosperity in Malaysia?
With so many events and issues regarding free speech in Malaysia, the author took the initiative to understand and analyze the concept of freedom of speech theoretically and practically, especially with regard to the debates of this concept in Western and Asian perspectives. The author started researching and writing about free speech in 1999 and it continued while he was a tutor and subsequently a lecturer in Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM). In 2003, he decided to go a step further by doing a Ph.D. on this topic. The author managed to finish his Ph.D. in 2006.
In his view, what is interesting about Freedom of Political Speech and Social Responsibility in Malaysia is that it attempts to test ideas about freedom of speech against the example of contemporary politics in Malaysia. The book charts the development of the theory and practice of free speech in Malaysia in order to set out the problems that the author thinks theories of free speech must face when applied to Malaysia. The main thrust of the book is to argue for a degree of freedom of speech described in terms of a communitarian based idea of social responsibility. Hopefully, this book will open up the minds of the readers about the situation of free speech in Malaysia and how we, as Malaysians, could improve the situation.