KUALA LUMPUR – Feb 16, 2016: A prominent senior lawyer has expressed his opposition to the idea that it was undemocratic for the government to criminalise slander against it.
Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos told The Mole today that there is nothing wrong with criminalising slander.
He said it is imperative to protect someone’s reputation in cyberspace to avoid “serious consequences”.
“Reputation of a person is very important as it can have serious costs on a person’s life if tarnished. Meanwhile, the protection is already provided for by the Defamation Act 1957.
“To say that criminalising it is against the constitution is pure nonsense, as we already have criminal defamation as an offence under section 500 of the Penal Code.
“Additionally, further article 10(2) of the constitution clearly allows parliament to pass laws to restrict freedom of speech in cases of slander and libel (defamation),” he added.
Jahaberdeen was responding to a claim by Padang Serai member of parliament N. Surendran that the plan to amend the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 was merely an attempt to prevent Malaysians from criticising the ruling government.
Surendran had said that the proposed amendment is an abuse of the country’s laws and violates the Federal Constitution, whereby it would infringed on freedom of speech.
“Article 10(1)(a) of the constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, including the right to criticise the government.
“Cracking down on alleged slander of the government in cyberspace or news portals and websites as proposed will certainly nullify freedom of speech in this country and seriously undermine democracy,” he added.
Surendran further opined that any attempt by the ruling party to use its majority in the parliament to criminalise criticism against the government, whether it is well-substantiated or not, is “unconstitutional and intolerable in a democratic system”.
Jahaberdeen, who is also the founder of “Rapera”, however noted that it is rather complicated to obtain evidence of malicious publication in cyberspace.
“If any amendment allows the aggrieved person to obtain evidence easily, I think that is a good step towards protecting a person from being defamed.
“Freedom of speech cannot include freedom to destroy a person’s reputation through lies,” he added.
Jahaberdeen also suggested sterner enforcement by the authorities is to combat such “cyber corruption” which he said has been costly to the country’s political and economic stability, and could even be deemed as a sabotage against the country.
Prominent journalist blogger Datuk Ahirudin Attan in a blog posting, related to allegations made online against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also wrote that better enforcement is essential in curbing defamation in cyberspace.
“If you ask me, I say the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has to step up its game and go after the unscrupulous and cowardly people who have been creating and spreading such lies on our social media,” the blogger wrote.