Activist Heidy Quah sues govt over law to criminalise offensive online comments

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Quah is also currently facing court charges over the Communications and Multimedia Act concerning a Facebook post last year.

An activist has filed a constitutional challenge against the government for punishing offenders over a law which criminalises offensive online comments.

Heidy Quah Gaik Li, who filed the suit last week, is seeking an order that the words “offensive” and “annoy” in Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act be invalidated for being unconstitutional.

Bernama

An online case management will be held at the Shah Alam High Court on Sept 14.

Under Section 233(1)(a), a person who makes, creates or solicits, and initiates the transmission of any online comment which is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive” with “intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person” commits an offence.

Those found guilty could be fined up to RM50,000, or face a maximum one-year jail term or both.

She is currently facing court charges over the same law concerning a Facebook post last year on alleged mistreatment of refugees at Immigration detention centres.

Last month she claimed trial before the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to a charge of improper use of network facilities to upload an offensive statement at around 5.30am on June 5, 2020.

According to Section 233(3) of the Act, she faces a maximum fine of RM50,000, or jail time of not more than a year, or both, if found guilty.

Quah’s hearing on those charges was set for mention at the KL Sessions Court, while her civil lawsuit is scheduled for online case management at the High Court in Shah Alam on Sept 14.

Court papers revealed that Quah is taking the position that Section 233, which makes online offensive content a crime, is not a “restriction” under Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution but is a “prohibition”.

Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.

However, Article 10(2)(a) allows Parliament to impose “restrictions” on grounds of national security, public order or morality, to protect parliamentary privileges, or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence.