PETALING JAYA: Former Johor DAP chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau today called for a mechanism to restrain political leaders from filing defamation suits against individuals, publication houses and the media to encourage critical investigative reporting and whistleblowing on corruption.
In a statement, he acknowledged that under the law, individuals are innocent until proven guilty and should be given a chance to defend themselves in court.
“Nonetheless, the conduct of political leaders and public figures is subject to public scrutiny by the mass media, especially if they are implicated in corruption, fraud and financial scandals,” he said.
Boo added that many were at a disadvantage when it came to questioning the integrity of political leaders as they were “easily subject to undue defamation lawsuits”.
He gave the example of leaders from both sides of the political divide whom he said had filed defamation suits against whistleblowers from all walks of life including members of the media.
“(These) cost hundreds of thousands to millions of ringgit, and have had a vast detrimental effect on freedom of speech by tampering with critical and investigative reporting in scrutinising the integrity and conduct of political leaders.
“It has even coerced law enforcement agencies from further investigating political figures,” he added.
Pointing to the corruption scandal at 1MDB, he said the country had learned “a bitter lesson” that law enforcement agencies should be given independent power to investigate and charge anyone without fear or favour.
He added that judicial independence should be entrenched “constitutionally” regardless of who is in power.