It’s separation of powers, not lack of freedom, lawyer says on Fahmi ruling

Graphic artist Fahmi Reza, whose conviction for uploading an offensive caricature of Najib Razak was recently upheld by the Court of Appeal. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has taken a human rights group to task for criticising the government after a court upheld the conviction of graphic designer Fahmi Reza for uploading an offensive caricature of former prime minister Najib Razak on Facebook.

A Srimurugan said the comments by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy could be misconstrued by the public to undermine the judicial institution.

“Suaram should understand that the government of the day does not dictate to the judiciary what decision it should make, or what sentence it should impose,” he told FMT.

Sevan had questioned Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to upholding freedom of expression after a three-member Court of Appeal bench unanimously struck out Fahmi’s appeal.

The bench, led by justice Kamardin Hashim, said Fahmi’s appeal against the conviction had no merit and upheld the earlier decision and sentence by the High Court.

Srimurugan said the Court of Appeal’s decision demonstrated the government’s commitment to the doctrine of separation of powers between the legislature, judiciary and executive.

“The right to impose a sentence and make a finding of guilt is purely a judicial function. No government of the day can interfere,” he added.

He said Suaram should urge the government to amend or repeal the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 if it felt the offence and punishment prescribed hindered the right to free speech.

“It is unfair to indirectly criticise the judiciary for applying and interpreting the law.”

Fahmi, 41, was charged with the improper use of network facilities through the creation of an offensive communication with the intention to annoy other people through his Facebook account on Feb 8, 2016.

He was charged under Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, punishable under Section 233 (3) of the same act which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000, jail not exceeding one year, or both upon conviction.

In February last year, the Ipoh Sessions Court sentenced Fahmi to one month in jail and fined him RM30,000 after finding him guilty of the charge.

In December, the High Court reduced the fine to RM10,000.