LETTER | As a rule of law that all men and women shall be treated equal before law, all men shall be seen innocent and given a chance to defend themselves in the court of justice until proven otherwise.
Nonetheless, political leaders’ and public figures’ conducts are subject to public scrutiny by the mass media especially when they are implicated in corruption, fraud and financial scandals.
A mega-scandal like 1MDB has taught us bitter lessons. Law enforcement agencies should have been given independence to investigate and charge anyone – including the highest officers – in court without fear or favour. Judiciary independence should be entrenched constitutionally, regardless of who is in power.
1MDB can be called the mother of all crimes as it involved corruption, abuse of power and commercial crime that enlisted the brightest minds.
Measures should be taken to protect the average Malaysian who is at a disadvantage to question a political leader’s integrity since he or she could be easily subjected to defamation lawsuits.
Both Barisan and Pakatan Harapan leaders have filed defamation suits against whistleblowers from all walks of life, including publications, journalists and individuals. These lawsuits cost hundreds of thousands to millions of ringgit in legal fees and have had a detrimental effect. Journalists and individuals are discouraged from scrutinising the integrity and conduct of political leaders. Even law enforcement agencies are deterred from investigating political figures.
A mechanism has to be worked out by the executive, judiciary and legislation to deter political leaders from filing defamation suits against individuals, publication houses and journalists. This will encourage investigative reporting and whistleblowing to be done when any impropriety is detected so the country’s financial standing and social morale is never jeopardised again.
The writer is the publicity secretary for Taman Ungku Tun Aminah DAP.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.