Monday 4 June 2012

'Multimedia Act used to stifle free speech'

The Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement says an engineer who was sentenced to year's jail and a RM50,000 fine for online comments against the Perak sultan, is being made an example of by the BN government.

malaysian law conference 291007 sultan azlan shah 1The Communications and Multimedia Act is being used to stifle free speech, said the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) on the sentencing of engineer Chan Hon Keong on Friday last week for insulting the Sultan of Perak (right).

"It is very obvious that Chan is being made an example of by the BN government to deter other Malaysians from expressing their criticisms online, not just of the Malay rulers but also BN," said its president Sharifuddin Abdul Latiff in a statement today.

Chan was charged under Section 233(1)(a) for "improper use of network facilities or service" by posting comments on a website regarding Perak's political crisis that allegedly insulted the sultan on a website on Feb 13, 2009.

The crisis saw the ousting of the Pakatan Rakyat-led government by BN after three assemblypersons had defected, culminating in Sultan Azlan Shah asking the then Menteri Besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin to step down.

Chan was slapped with the maximum penalty of a year's jail, a RM50,000 fine, and another five months imprisonment if he does not pay the fine.

The Butterworth Sessions Court has allowed a stay in sentencing pending an appeal at the High Court, and released him on a RM14,000 bail.

Sharifuddin said Chan's sentencing was "most unjust" because he was being singled out for lese majesty, or the violation of a ruler's dignity, while "thousands" others had expressed outrage at the coup.

In addition, he pointed out that in 2008 when Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin refused to reappoint Idris Jusoh as Menteri Besar and appointed Ahmad Said instead, protests were held where Umno members were "extremely disrespectful" to the sultan, including the display of banners that called the Sultan ‘natang' (animal).

"Despite the public uproar over this insult, there was no charge of lese majesty brought against the perpetrators of this insult," he said.

However, he said lese majesty is an "outdated crime" that has no place in Malaysia and rulers must earn the people's respect by their conduct and by fulfilling their responsibilities.

"Ours is a democracy derived from the aspirations of participatory politics, and no longer a feudal state of old."

Sharifuddin also expressed concern on the recent amendments in the Evidence Act, which among others, assumes that a person had published an online posting if it came from his computer, internet connection, published or under his name or pseudonym, unless proven otherwise.

"A person may get maligned through impersonation and suffer the consequences..." he said.

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