AGC drops plan to charge journo with defamation

Modified 14 Jan 2020, 10:00 pm
  • UPDATE 10.20PM | Added Tashny Sukumaran’s response to the Attorney-General’s Chambers decision not to pursue charges against her.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is dropping plans to charge journalist Tashny Sukumaran with criminal defamation.

When contacted, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas told Malaysiakini that he has looked into the case against Tashny and decided that it should be dropped. Thomas did not state specifically why the suit was dropped. 

“I have instructed the officer in charge to drop the case,” he said.

In August last year, Tashny, who is the Malaysian correspondent for the South China Morning Post, had accused dermatologist Dr Ruban Nathan of touching her inappropriately during a consultation on dry skin on her shins. 

It was also alleged they were not accompanied by a female nurse during the consultation.

Nathan countered that the allegation was “without corroboration”, and said a trained nurse was present throughout the entire consultation.

In an immediate response to Thomas’ decision, Tashny said she felt vindicated and relieved, but said her predicament has created a chilling effect for other women caught in similar situations.

“It is unfortunate that our complaints on sexual harassment are often dismissed or perceived as defamatory.

"I also urge the government to look into the fault-lines of our criminal justice system and create a safe space for women to speak out on issues impacting us," she told Malaysiakini.

Earlier today, before she knew of the AGC's decision, Tashny took to Twitter saying she would be charged with criminal defamation tomorrow over her allegations against Nathan.

As for her police report accusing Nathan of sexual harassment, she said it had been classified as “No further action” due to insufficient evidence.

“This is exactly why women don’t come forward (to report sexual misconduct)," she said. 

"What is the point if the system has failed and continues to fail us?

“Why is there no protection for those who report these predators, while we bear all the risk of retribution?

“We are operating in a system where women are already afraid to speak out, and charging me reinforces this fear.” 

Tashny noted that many countries have repealed criminal defamation laws because it violates the freedom of expression.

“Just four days ago, the attorney-general said freedom of speech and freedom after speech exists," said the journalist.

“Is this how we open up democratic spaces? The victimisation of women who are trying to protect others? Violating our obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women?” 

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