In a June 2012 article published in the East-West Centre in Asia Pacific Bulletin and reprinted in the Bangkok Post and on the website of Human Rights Watch, writer Mickey Spiegel noted that in April 2012, the Malaysian parliament had passed the replacement for the ISA, called the Security Offences (Special Measures) 2012 Act (SOSMA).Spiegel complained that SOSMA “does not go far enough to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of Malaysians.” In fact, asserted Spiegel, SOSMA is "actually more repressive and retrograde" than the ISA in some ways, an indication that the government was “playing 'bait and switch' with human rights.” For example, “coupled with amendments to other laws,” SOSMA “tightened restrictions or banned outright activities already under constraint, added limits to previously unrestricted activities, and broadened police apprehension and surveillance powers in new and innovative ways.” In addition, it “further erodes citizens’ individual protections, for example by ceding to the police rather than judges the power to intercept communications.” The Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) replaces Section 27 of the Police Act, which required police permits for large gatherings. Instead, organizers must give the police 10 days notice of any planned gathering, after which the police will reply, outlining any restrictions they wish to place on the gathering.Meanwhile, in East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), press is more free as there is less concern of controversy happenning there.
The constitution forbids discrimination against citizens based on sex, religion, and race, but also accords a "special position" to Bumiputeras, a label that applies both to ethnic Malays and to members of tribes that are indigenous to the states of Sabah and Sarawak in eastern Malaysia.
Freedom of speech and the press are restricted, with journalists intimidated into self-censorship.
The leading human-rights organisation in Malaysia is Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).
On 17 September 2012, several dozen international human-rights groups issued a joint press release protesting what they described as “the Malaysian government's ongoing harassment” of SUARAM.
Under the Police Act, until recently, police permits were required for gatherings of over four people, other than strikes, On 15 September 2011, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the ISA would be totally repealed and “be replaced by a new law that incorporates far more judicial oversight and limits the powers of the police to detain suspect for preventive reasons.” The government also committed itself to the repeal of some of its other best known legal instruments for restricting human rights, including the Sedition Act and Emergency Declarations and Banishment Act.
In addition, the government agreed to review several laws, including Section 27 of the Police Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Official Secrets Act.In 2013, Malaysia was ranked 147 out of 180 nations by Reporters Without Borders in the Press Freedom Index.As of 2013, Malaysia is rated as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World report.All newspapers are controlled by governing parties or their allies.Publications must apply annually for permit renewals, which can be denied; foreign publications are subject to censorship and confiscation.Public comment on race, religion, and other subjects is prohibited.