Contempt verdict an attack on freedom of speech and expression

The contempt guilty verdict on Malaysiakini this morning resulting in a fine of RM500, 000 is simply outrageous given the fact that Malaysiakini is punished for something they did not report directly, but rather a reader’s comment. Worse still, the courts fined Malaysiakini an amount of more than double of what the AGC requested.

In passing the judgement, Court of Appeal President Rohana Yusuf said, “The impugned statement (comments) has gone far and wide locally and internationally and the content is spurious and reprehensible in nature, containing the allegation of corruption”. Does the judiciary think they are going to receive praise from the international community with this verdict?

It seems that the judiciary is unnecessarily taking matters too personally and acting in a petty way when confronting criticism. If the judiciary wanted to be magnanimous and make a point, they could have just fined Malaysiakini a token amount of RM 1. It is not a silly a suggestion. Previously a former ISA detainee who won his case for unlawful detention was awarded nominal damages of only RM1.

This decision, however high the fine might be, is seen as an attack on freedom of speech and expression. It is a blow to fundamental liberties. It is a sad day when six judges of the highest court in the land, the Federal Court, arrived at such a decision.

S.Arutchelvan
PSM Deputy Chairperson
19/2/2021

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