Co-President Gan Ping Sieu Proposing Amendments to the Government Proceedings Act 1956
Thursday, September 27, 2018
The recent Federal court ruling which allows the Federal and State governments to sue individuals for defamation is wrong in principle and has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech in this country.



Governments have practically unlimited resources to sue individuals and organizations for defamation. It is outrageous that public institutions are using tax revenue to sue tax and rate payers. Doing so stifles the freedom of speech of citizens, non-governmental organisations and civil societies who raise legitimate concerns on matters of public importance.



The decision also goes against the spirit of the “Derbyshire Principle”. In the landmark 1993 English case, it was ruled that: "It was of the highest public importance that a democratically elected governmental body should be open to uninhibited public criticism, and since the threat of civil actions for defamation would place an undesirable fetter on the freedom to express such criticism, it would be contrary to the public interest for institutions of central or local government to have any right at common law to maintain an action for damages for defamation."



Developed countries around the world have similar prohibitions as they believe that public criticisms enhances transparency and good governance - values which CENBET holds dearly to. Allowing the resource-rich governments to sue or threaten to sue individuals and organizations is an affront to freedom of speech and can lead to a totalitarian state.



The Apex Court has construed the Government Proceedings Act 1956 in contradiction to the fundamental right of freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Therefore, it is pertinent that the Act be amended to expressly include the Derbyshire principle, forbidding governments to take legal action against individuals or organizations for defamation.



ENDS
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