Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today criticsed the police report recently lodged against Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin over allegedly defamatory statements against the prime minister, calling it unlawful and unconstitutional for government leaders to use enforcement authorities to defend their reputation.
LFL director Zaid Malek said government leaders who felt they had been defamed could turn to the civil courts to clear their name.
"In our democracy, the prime minister has no special status under the law different from ordinary citizens," he added.
"It is unlawful for him to utilise the police to defend his reputation."
Muhammad Kamil Abdul Munim, the political secretary to the finance minister, lodged the report on March 13 over Muhyiddin's statement of a planned prosecution against him through the use of enforcement agencies to achieve the minister’s political ends.
He said the report was made after finding that Muhyiddin's statement was defamatory and could create a negative perception of the leadership of Anwar Ibrahim.
Zaid said it was "unlawful, unconstitutional and tyrannical" for Anwar or any other government minister to "rely on the machinery of the enforcement authorities to clamp down on any speech that 'creates a negative perception' of their leadership".
He also reminded Anwar of how Pakatan Harapan had been on the receiving end of similar police investigations over their criticism of then prime minister Najib Razak.
"Have Anwar and his political coalition learnt nothing from the persecution they were then subjected to?"
In a statement, he described the situation as setting "a dangerous precedent" as similar action could be taken against anyone else who expressed dissent against the government.
"This renders meaningless the right to freedom of expression of the people guaranteed under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution and endangers our civil liberties," he added.
"We remind the government that the police are not here to protect the image or reputation of the prime minister or the government that he leads.
"Their job is to keep the public safe from crime and maintain public order. A mature and democratic government publicly responds to and answers criticism, instead of trying to jail critics."