SHAH ALAM: The High Court here today ordered a building consultant who uses the name “Ratu Naga” on her Facebook to face trial in the Sessions Court for insulting Prime Minister Najib Razak on the social networking site three years ago.
It dismissed Syarul Ema Rena Abu Samah’s reference application to the Federal Court to determine the constitutionality of Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998.
On Jan 25, Subang MP R Sivarasa also failed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to challenge the same provision in the CMA, saying it violated his basic right to free speech and expression.
Like Sivarasa, Syarul Ema, 37, took the position that the provision in the CMA was in breach of Articles 8 and 10 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
Article 8 states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection, while Article 10 (1)(a) says every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression.
However, judge Abdul Karim Abdul Rahman today said freedom of speech was not absolute and Parliament could impose restrictions on grounds of public order and morality.
He said Section 233 (1)(a) of the CMA was very clear and specific.
“The provision is unambiguous and gives adequate notice that one cannot abuse a network service like transmitting obscene, indecent, false, or offensive messages with the intention to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person,” he said.
On Jan 19 last year, Sepang Sessions Court judge Muhammad Faizal Ismail declined to refer the matter to the High Court, saying the legality of Section 233 (1)(a) of the CMA had been decided in 2010.
On Feb 17, 2016, Syarul Ema pleaded not guilty to the charge of knowingly using the network application, through the “Ratu Naga” Facebook profile, to make and initiate the transmission of offensive comments against Najib over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with intent to annoy others.
The offence was allegedly committed on her Facebook page at 12.02am on Oct 6, 2015.
Those convicted for this offence can be fined a maximum of RM50,000, jailed up to a year, or both.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya, who appeared together with Gurdial Singh Nijar, said Syarul Ema’s trial had been scheduled for four days from March 20.
“However, we will appeal today’s decision in the Court of Appeal and also ask for stay of the trial,” she told FMT.
Latheefa said Sivarasa had also filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Sophian Zakaria appeared for the government.