Malaysia: ARTICLE 19 welcomes withdraw of criminal defamation charges against journalist

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas confirmed that his chambers would withdraw criminal defamation charges against journalist Tashny Sukumaran ahead of a court hearing scheduled for today. The charges against Ms. Sukumaran are related to her allegations of non-consensual touching by a physician, who subsequently filed a criminal complaint.

Nalini Elumalai, ARTICLE 19’s Malaysia Programme Officer said:

“It is encouraging that the Attorney-General has decided to withdraw the charges against Ms. Sukumaran. However, the initiation of criminal proceedings against the accuser, rather than the accused, highlights a serious problem with Malaysia’s penal code.

“Malaysian lawmakers should urgently consider the decriminalisation of defamation. Criminal defamation provisions are easily abused, and often used by powerful individuals to silence their accusers. Authorities should reform section 499 of the penal code as part of broader efforts to ensure that those raising credible allegations of sexual misconduct or other forms of abuse are not subjected to harassment or retaliation.”