The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is glad that the new government decided not to pursue the case against Heidy Quah.
It was reported yesterday that human rights activist Heidy Quah was to be charged under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).
The government, however, made a sharp U-turn at the last minute and decided not to pursue the case.
This decision, we hope, foretells the government’s commitment in not weaponising repressive laws to silence critics and curtail our freedom of expression and speech. Human rights activists such as Heidy Quah should not have been investigated and intimidated for speaking out and critiquing government action.
The broad scope of Section 233 of the CMA allows it to be widely used against human rights defenders and has become a tool of intimidation and harassment by state apparatus in recent years. Last year alone we documented 114 cases where Section 233 was used to investigate netizens and human rights defenders for various reasons. (See the Freedom of Expression Report 2022.)
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The government must always be open to scrutiny and constructive criticism in fulfilling its mandate. In this regard, we call upon Fahmi Fadzil as the new Communications and Digital Minister to hasten reforms with regard to the CMA and other laws which are used to silence critics, specifically human rights defenders.
We need a state that lives up to the hopes of the people for unencumbered freedom of expression and speech, especially when it comes to holding the government accountable.
Wathshlah Naidu is executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism