Contempt verdict an assault against freedom of speech and expression

By S Arutchelvan


THE guilty verdict for contempt against Malaysiakini (Mkini) yesterday resulting in a fine of RM500,000 is simply outrageous given the fact that Mkini is punished for something they did not report directly but a reader’s comment.

Worse, the courts fined Mkini an amount of more than half of what the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had requested.

In passing the judgement, Court of Appeal President Tan Sri 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 praises from international community with this verdict?

It seems the judiciary is unnecessarily taking matters too personal and petty when confronting criticism. If at all the judiciary wanted to be magnanimous and make a point, they could have just fined Mkini a token amount of RM1. It’s not a silly a suggestion. Previously a former Internal Security Act (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. – Feb 20, 2021


S Arutchelvan is the deputy chairperson of Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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