Malaysian blogger, Khairul Nizam Abd Ghani, or “Aduka Taruna”, was recently arrested for allegedly insulting the late Sultan of Johor, Sultan Iskandar ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail. According to news reports, the Home Minister, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, said the blogger will not be let off the hook that easily.
The news report quoted the Malaysian Home Minister as saying:
Let his case be a lesson to others who think they can express themselves openly without worrying about repercussions… He has been arrested and will have to wait for the Attorney-General’s Chambers to decide on the appropriate action to be taken against him… Even if he apologised to the Sultan or the public for making the insult, my ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission can still take action against him.
The blogger reportedly gave himself up to the police, according to reports on 25 Jan 2010. Following the sudden passing of Sutlan, Khairul Nizam allegedly posted the insulting comment on his blog, for which it is said about 25 police reports were filed against him. Due to this, the Johore police had to establish “a special task force” to investigate the matter.
Since then, Khairul Nizam publicly apologised and withdrew the posting.
In addition to the Home Ministry and the police investigation, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), a body which regulates the Internet, will also investigate the matter, according to Information, Communication and Culture Minister, Rais Yatim.
The minister was reported to have said:
We need more people who are appreciative of those who have contributed. It is very seldom to find Asians lambasting a former head of state, especially the late Sultan of Johor who was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.*
During the course of developments on the matter, the two ministries have been conflicted in their approach to the matter. After the initial outcry, Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim was reported to have said that the government has no intention to take action against Khairul Nizam, as he had realised his mistake and openly apologised for it on his blog.
He later said that the blogger must apologise formally before a court judge who will preside over his case, as well as apologise formally to the Johor royal family. However, the Home Minister has been consistent in that Khairul Nizam needs to be prosecuted, as otherwise, “…anybody can say anything they like and apologise the next minute and get away with it“.
The blogger was charged on 29 Jan 2010 under Section 233 (1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000 or one year's jail or both upon conviction. It was reported that Deputy Public Prosecutor, Masri Mohd Daud, proposed bail at RM10,000 with one surety. The blogger's counsel pleaded for a lower surety, and the Sessions Court judge, Zamri Bakar, agreed to reduce bail to RM5,000 with one surety.
Royalists are very much for Khairul Nizam's prosecution, with an Anti-Aduka Taruna campaign taking place on the blogosphere and on Facebook. Former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said bloggers should stick to the facts and write on a basis of truth, rather than insult people. He was reported to have said:
Bloggers should not unnecessarily do things that are not going to benefit anybody. Why use your blog to insult people?
The most recent development on this was the Home Ministry's announcement that it will continue to monitor blogs and websites touching on the people's sensitivities. According to news reports, Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said they were now “collecting evidence to bring the culprits to book for touching on sensitivities involving race, religion and the institution of Malay rulers.”
* the Malaysian King