Don’t let ‘bad laws’ scare you, Azmi Sharom tells Malaysians after court loss

Azmi Sharom arrives at the Federal Court in Putrajaya, October 6, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Azmi Sharom arrives at the Federal Court in Putrajaya, October 6, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, Oct 6 — Universiti Malaya (UM) law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom said today that Malaysians should not be afraid of expressing their opinions simply because of the existence of what he described as “bad laws.”

Azmi, an associate professor in UM's law faculty, said he hopes the Federal Court's decision today in upholding the Sedition Act 1948's constitutionality and validity will not affect commentary in this country.

“I hope people continue to have a point of view and to express their point of view.

“Because we must not allow bad laws to frighten us, we must continue to struggle, we must continue to make this country a true democracy,” he told reporters here immediately after a Federal Court dismissed his constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act.

The academic said today is a “sad day for civil liberties in Malaysia,” after noting that the purpose of the Federal Constitution's Article 10 appears to have been overlooked in his case.

He said Article 10 was aimed at ensuring that only Parliament, a democratically elected body, can make laws to restrict Malaysians' right to freedom of expression.

“The literalist interpretation of the Federal Court does very little to protect us from laws which are too restrictive. So I'm of course very disappointed, not for me personally, but for all of us in this country,” he said.

Following the Federal Court's ruling, Azmi will have to stand trial for an allegedly seditious remark.

“I hope that the merits of the case will show that I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

On September 2 last year, Azmi pleaded not guilty to the principal charge under Section 4(1)(b) and an alternative charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for a remark he made as an academic in an article published on Malay Mail Online.

Section 4(1)(b) covers “uttering any seditious words” while Section 4(1)(c) deals with individuals who publish seditious publications, among other things.

If convicted under either charge for his quotes in the article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told,” the UM associate professor could face a maximum fine of RM5,000, a maximum three-year jail term or both.

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