The judicial harassment of the blogger Amizudin Ahmat, a member of the opposition People’s Justice Party, took a new twist when High Court Judge Datin Zabariah Mohd Yusof sentenced him today to three months’ imprisonment for contempt of court for breaking an order not to criticize the culture, information and communications minister, Rais Yatim.
Without going into the merits of the case, Reporters Without Borders believes these proceedings to be unacceptable and the penalty disproportionate, and they pose a dangerous threat to freedom of expression concerning members of the government.
“Instead of judging each article at issue in a spirit of open debate and giving Amizudin Ahmat a chance to defend himself, the justice system has quite simply reduced him to silence,” the press freedom organization said. “And, since he dared to express himself nonetheless, it deprived him of his freedom today. Unless the judges reconsider this decision immediately, they will be answerable for creating a serious precedent for freedom of news and information in Malaysia.”
Ahmat, also known by the pen name Din Banjai, was sentenced to pay exorbitant damages for defamation (see below) and banned from publishing any further articles about the minister. Since then, he has posted 11 more articles on the subject, judged by the High Court to be defamatory. He was found guilty of serious contempt of court and, despite his explanations, the bench ruled that the repeated nature of the offence and the language he used merited severe punishment.
Malaysia is among countries under surveillance in the list of Internet Enemiespublished in March by Reporters Without Borders.