“Walk the talk on press freedom”: PBM calls for AG to withdraw charges against ex-chief editor

PARTI Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) Information chief Zakaria Abdul Hamid has expressed concern over recent news that former The Edge editor-in-chief Ahmad Azam Mohd Aris was charged twice with criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code related to two articles that were published during his tenure. 

Calling the move an “act of intimidation”, Zakaria warned that it could “curtail the Fourth Estate from carrying out their duties without fear or favour”. 

On Tuesday (Sept 13) Azam was charged with two counts of criminal defamation over two articles published respectively in 2020 and 2021 on purported penny stock manipulations. 

According to the first charge sheet, Azam was accused of tarnishing the reputation of Metronic Global Bhd non-executive director Datuk Kua Khai Shyuan and DGB Asia Bhd over a report published in The Edge’s weekly issues dated Sept 21 to Sept 27, 2020. 

The second charge, which implicates both Azam and the publication’s contributing editor Shanmugam Murugasu, concerns an article dated April 12 to April 18, 2021 that was deemed to have tarnished the reputations of Kua, Metronic Global, DGB Asia, Trive Property Group Group Bhd and MNC Wireless Bhd.  

Azam, 61, who retired from the position in November last year, pleaded not guilty to both charges when they were read before him at the Magistrate’s Court in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. 

On this matter, Zakaria said any aggrieved parties from media reports can always resort to civil action and there is no need for the state to interfere. 

“This is especially so if the aggrieved party is a private company or a private citizen,” he added. 

Urging the Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to “immediately withdraw charges against the media” Zakaria pointed out that any disputes can be brought before the civil courts. 

“A criminal charge under Section 500 of the Penal Code carries a jail term and a fine. These punishments should be reserved only for those who cause public disorder and not against people like Azam,” he stressed. 

“This incident has dampened the spirit of press freedom and has left many media practitioners disgruntled. The media must be allowed to do their jobs without fear or favour. 

“Malaysia’s placing in the recently released 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fell to 119 from 101 in 2020. It is time for us to walk the talk on press freedom and ensure free and fair reporting without any interference.” – Sept 15, 2022 


Main photo credit: The Vibes

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