Remove laws that restrict press freedom and free speech, says ex-judge

PETALING JAYA: A retired judge said the newly installed Pakatan Harapan federal government must review without delay all draconian laws that muzzle the media and restrict free speech.

Gopal Sri Ram said Section 233 (1) (a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 that criminalised “internet abuse” must be looked into as several individuals had been charged under it.

That provision carries a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or a jail term of up to a year or both.

“While attending to the economic and financial well being of the country, I am confident the government will remove toxic laws that throttle the media and free speech,” he said.

The former Federal Court judge said this in response to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s maiden speech last night after being sworn in as the 7th prime minister.

Mahathir said that his government would function according to provisions in the Federal Constitution and uphold the rule of law, one of the many pledges to voters.

Sri Ram said the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Sedition Act should also be looked into.

“Most importantly, Parliament must repeal the Anti-Fake News Act,” he said.

The controversial law which was bulldozed through by the Barisan Nasional came into effect early last month.

Those convicted can be sentenced up to six year’s jail and a maximum RM500,000 fine or both.

Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin had said he campaigned for PH to oust BN as he was against the anti-fake news law which was unreasonable and ambiguous.

Sri Ram said the government should also attend to all cases of political prosecution where complainants had been sent to jail while potential suspects had gone scot free.

He said Putrajaya must also look into the justice system which included the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) which was “a farce”.

“The JAC (which functions to recommend appointments and promotions of judges) is an unconstitutional body and must be overhauled,” he added.

Sri Ram said the workings and functions of the Election Commission must also be immediately looked into.

“All the commissioners should be tribunalised for acting against the constitution,” he added.