PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have criticised the use of Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to punish a fish delivery worker for insulting the police force through Facebook comments.
Syahredzan Johan, in reference to the case involving Mohd Hannan Ibrahim, 27, from Kampung Parit Tengah, Pekan, who was jailed six months for the offence, said while the comments posted were not according to Malaysian culture, the decision to charge the individual was disappointing.
“Yes, the law is still in force and binding. But the federal government has already voiced its intent to amend this section. On this basis, the prosecution should not have brought any charges until the amendments are passed in Parliament.
“On the same note, the punishment meted out by the Sessions Court judge is harsh and not in line with the trend of punishment for similar offences under the section.
“I wish to state that if the law allows discretion by the court to impose a fine, a jail term, or both, the punishment of a fine should be prioritised ahead of a jail sentence,” he told FMT today.
Syahredzan, who is also political secretary to DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, was asked to comment on the Kuantan Sessions Court’s decision to sentence Hannan to six months in jail for posting offensive comments regarding the death of two policemen in an accident at the East Coast Expressway (LPT) on Tuesday.
Bernama reported that the court ordered him to serve the jail term from the date of his arrest, which was Oct 23.
The accused was charged with using his Facebook account to write an insulting comment on a posting in the “Komuniti Kuantan” site about the death of the two policemen at 5.30pm on Oct 23.
The charge under Section 233(1)(a)(i) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, carries a maximum RM50,000 fine or imprisonment for a year or both, upon conviction.
Syahredzan expressed hope that the National Legal Aid Foundation would step in to review why Hannan was not represented when he was brought to court.
He said if the individual had been represented by a lawyer, the lawyer could have presented his views as to why the offence did not warrant such a heavy punishment.
“I would again like to urge the government to put in place a moratorium on such Acts, as has been decided for the Sedition Act, while awaiting the process of amending or abolishing the Acts,” he said.
Lawyer-activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri also shared similar views, saying that without a doubt, the punishment was extremely harsh and unfair.
Fadiah, who has been subjected to investigations under Section 233 of the Act, said this particular section should be abolished as it infringed on the right to free speech.
“What amounts to “obscene, indecent, false, menacing, or offensive” under Section 233 of the CMA is not clearly defined, leaving its broad and vague definition open to abuse,” she told FMT.
Fadiah said laws should not be used to teach people how to be well-mannered and cultured.
“The state and its apparatus are in positions of power and using the oppressive law to teach a layperson a lesson on manners is an affront to democracy.
“Law is a powerful tool often used by the state to “teach” people in the name of civility. History has shown how this justification is always used to assert power and control.
“Law should not be used as a tool to impose morality. Moral policing violates established democratic principles,” she added.