Charge against ex-Bersih deputy chairman: Three groups express concern

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Sisters in Islam (SIS), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Justice for Sisters (JFS) express concern with the Sessions Court’s decision to charge former Bersih 2.0 deputy chairman Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan for allegedly transmitting offensive communications on Islam with the intention of offending others on his Facebook page last April.

Sarajun Hoda allegedly posted on his Facebook a recommendation that Islam be removed as the official religion of Malaysia, that the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) be closed and that Islamic religious elements in government administrations and schools be removed as well.

The charge – read before Judge Siti Noraida Sulaiman – under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act criminalises the use of network facilities or network services by a person to transmit any communications that are deemed to be offensive and could cause annoyance to another person.

Section 233(1)(a) of the act has been long debated as problematic as it is considered vague and ambiguous. It is often misused to curb freedom of expression and speech, deny alternative views and suppress Malaysians from information and knowledge.

It is pertinent to note that institutions such as Jakim are government bureaucracies that are run by the civil service. Government bureaucracies are not divine. They should be opened to public scrutiny and disagreements either through writings, public debates or discussions, as freedom of expression and speech is enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

Malaysians should not be policed for expressing an idea or opinion and must not fear persecution should there be any disagreements and criticisms.

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According to news reports, Sarajun Hoda has fully cooperated by appearing in court. Even though he has claimed trial to these charges, in essence, we believe that he should not have been charged in the first place. – SIS/CIJ/JFS

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