Twitter user in the dock for ‘insulting Agong’

Malaysia's King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah leaves the podium to inspect an honour guard during the king's birthday parade in Kuala Lumpur June 2, 2012. — Reuters pic
Malaysia's King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah leaves the podium to inspect an honour guard during the king's birthday parade in Kuala Lumpur June 2, 2012. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — Twitter user Effi Nazrel Saharudin claimed trial last week to two counts of insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with two posts on the micro-blogging site.

In a statement today, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said Effi, known by his Twitter moniker as Obefiend, was charged under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for his “offensive tweets”.

“The prosecution was made after investigations by the MCMC found that the suspect acted with awareness and his comments had attracted negative reactions from the public,” the national Internet regulator said.

Effi pleaded not guilty and was released with a RM4,000 bail for both charges. The case will continue on July 2.

If found guilty, Effi may be fined RM50,000 or jail not more than one year, or both.

Section 233 states the offence as “the online transmission of any comment, request, suggestion, or other communication which is ‘obscene, indecent, false or offensive’ with intent to ‘annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person’.”

“The charge isn’t for ‘insulting Sultan. There was nothing in the charge about ‘insulting’. It is ‘comment which is offensive in nature with intent to annoy another person’,” civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who is Effi’s counsel, told The Malay Mail Online.

According to MCMC, Effi’s two “offensive tweets” were posted on June 1, 2013 on his Twitter account @1Obefiend. The account is currently set to private.

The first tweet said: “they have a point. Agong is just a puppet. Down with monarchy. A waste of rakyats money” in reply to users @IzranSalleh and @norfaiz.

The second tweet said: “Soalan serius. Rakyat bayar elaun dan istana agong. Technically speaking he works for us. So why do we put him on a tandu?”

[Translation: “Serious question. The public pays for the Agong’s allowance and palace. Technically speaking, he works for us. So why do we put him on a pedestal?”]

Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia Datuk Jailani Johari said in March this year that to date 20 cases had been prosecuted in court for offences under Section 233.

Last month, MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi said that it is probing several derogatory remarks that were posted on social media after the Sultan of Perak passed away.

In June 2012, 29-year-old engineer Chan Hon Keong was sentenced to a year’s jail and fined RM50,000, in lieu of five month’s jail — the maximum sentence — by the Sessions Court for posting comments deemed insulting to the Sultan of Perak.

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