The judgment of the Court of Appeal judge, Justice Denis Ong which was released on Monday on the dismissal of Hiebertís appeal against conviction for contempt, although the jail sentence of three months was reduced to six weeks, failed to make any impact or impression to check the tide of international opinion at the Commonwealth Law Conference against the quality of Malaysian judiciary and justice.
It would be a good idea if an opinion poll is conducted to gather the consensus of the 1,500 lawyers and judges at the Commonwealth Law Conference not only on the conviction and six-week jail sentence of Murray Hiebert for contempt of court, making him the first journalist to be imprisoned in Malaysia in the line of duty and the first to be jailed for contempt in a Commonwealth country in 50 years, but also as to whether the time has come to bring an end to contempt of court laws which trampled on the freedom of expression.
Not only photocopies of Hiebert's 1997 article was circulated widely
at the Commonwealth conference, and his contempt case was repeatedly
mentioned in sessions dealing with civil liberties, the Asian Wall Street Journal today reprinted the article, "Malaysia: See You in Court: A series of civil suits suggest growing litigousness" which led to Murray Hiebertís imprisonment.
Are the Malaysian authorities now going to charge those responsible for circulating at the Commonwealth Law Conference the photostat copies of Murray Hiebertís article which was published by the Far Eastern Economic Review on January 23, 1997 and the editors of the Asian Wall Street Journal for reprinting it today for contempt of court for reprinting? The Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah should clear the air.