Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tian Chua’s guilty verdict a 'black day' for free expression

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Human rights advocates have slammed the guilty verdict that the Sessions Court handed out to PKR vice-president Tian Chua in his sedition trial today, saying it is a setback for free expression.

The Malaysian chapter of rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) said allowing individuals to criticise the state is crucial to maintaining liberty.

“The ruling justifies fears that the authorities will likely continue to use repressive legislation to silence dissenting voices to clamp down on legitimate comment and dissent and indicates a further erosion of legitimate rights under international human rights law and standard,” said executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

She called on Malaysian authorities to stop using the Sedition Actand other legal provisions that criminalise peaceful dissent.

She said the Sedition Act should be abolished altogether, while other laws that restrict freedom of expression should be reviewed and amended so that they comply with international human rights laws and standards.

"We also urge for all charges of sedition against activists, politicians and dissenting voices including the cartoonist Zunar, lawyer Eric Paulsen, activist Khalid Ismath and opposition Member of Parliament N Surendran, be dropped," she said.

Meanwhile, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar called it a black day for Malaysia.

She said that despite Najib's earlier promise to abolish the Sedition Act and replace it with the National Harmony Act, over 30 opposition MPs have been charged for alleged sedition offences.

This shows that the BN government, in its desperation to curtail legitimate democratic dissent, still uses such forms of pressure against anyone who expresses themselves vocally, she said.
 
She also lambasted the authorities' apparent double standards, claiming that no comparable action was taken against pro-government supporters when they issued threats that may incite civil disturbance.
"We await the fulfillment of the promise to repeal the Act which gives the BN carte blanche to continue to oppress the rakyat by the policy of suppressing the voices of the opposition which is supposed to check and balance the government," she said.

Tian Chua was sentenced to three months’ jail and fined RM1,800 in default of six months’ jail at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur today.

He was found guilty of uttering “seditious” words in a speech which the court determined had the tendency to incite people against the government post the 2013 general election.

His jail term has been stayed pending an appeal.

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