24 February 2015
The judiciary must not fear or resent public criticism
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the widespread use of the Sedition Act and Penal Code to stifle public criticism and protest against the recent Federal Court verdict convicting Anwar Ibrahim.
Justice is not a cloistered virtue and the verdict to sentence the leader of the Opposition to five years’ imprisonment for an archaic and widely discredited charge certainly must attract public scrutiny and condemnation in any democratic state and Malaysia is no exception.
An independent judiciary is indispensable to democracy as it distinguishes a democratic state from a totalitarian one. The judiciary in order to command public confidence and respect must through their conduct, in and out of court, in judgments give the appearance of impartiality, independence and integrity. That is the only way.
In doing so, the judiciary must not fear or resent public criticism including unjustified, intemperate and even crude ones as its foundation surely must be built on sterner stuff that can withstand criticism and does not require being propped up by threats of contempt or sedition charges.
The reverse however is true – a crackdown in defence of the verdict will only reflect badly upon the judiciary and bring further public scrutiny, criticism and odium.
We call on the authorities to halt the crackdown against freedom of speech and to let the public be the final arbiter on what is justified or unjustified criticism against the judiciary.
Lawyers for Liberty
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