Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drop Suspension on Defamation Charges Used to Silence Opponents

The Selangor state assembly’s Rights and Privileges Committee should drop the suspension of Marsum Paing (Dengkil), Mohamad Idris Abu Bakar (Hulu Bernam), Warno Dogol (Sabak), and Isa Abdul Kasim (Batang Kali). The four Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen have been suspended for six months each on the ground of making statements deemed to have defamed the Selangor state assembly.  The suspension is smack of muzzling its opponents . It is an extremely unhealthy signal. Instead of  engaging in an open debate with its opponents, Pakatan Rakyat has resorted to charges of defamation to silence its opponents. The accusation that Selcat is a political tool did not warrant the suspension of the four. 

Using charges of sedition and defamation to intimidate and silence critics is a bad practice of Barisan National, Pakatan Rakyat should respect the right to freedom of expression and not to emulate BN on bad pratices. It is no point to table Freedom of Information Bill while showing utter disregard to freedom of expression.  Pakatan Rakyat should be sensitive to the long term struggle of its supporters who fight for the recognition of basic rights such as freedom of expression under Malaysia law.

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests, and political speech and public debate are most highly valued as part of that right - Human Rights Watch

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