MeToo moment, Malaysia? Defamation charge against Post reporter withdrawn, Malaysia News

Malaysia‘s attorney general has withdrawn a criminal defamation charge against the South China Morning Post journalist Tashny Sukumaran, who tweeted about her experience of alleged sexual harassment by a male dermatologist in what some see as a MeToo moment for Malaysia.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas told The Malaysian Insight on Tuesday that the defamation charge over a series of tweets last year, alleging inappropriate physical contact during a medical examination, had been withdrawn.

“I feel vindicated that the [attorney general] has decided not to use this archaic section of the penal code against me,” said Sukumaran.

“Whilst I am relieved that I will not be charged in court, this episode has nevertheless created a chilling effect on similarly placed women who have spoken out or are thinking of speaking out against sexual harassment,” she said.

She said it was unfortunate that women’s complaints on sexual harassment were 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 said.

The Post’s Deputy Executive Editor Zuraidah Ibrahim said: “Tashny should not have had to suffer this ordeal. We are glad that common sense has prevailed.”

South China Morning Post journalist Tashny Sukumaran.
PHOTO: Tory Ho

In August 2019, Sukumaran recounted via her Twitter handle her experience of how she had been “inappropriately touched” on her legs by the dermatologist when she went to his clinic in Kuala Lumpur for a second opinion of the dry skin on her shin.

“Soon after, he threatened to sue me unless I deleted my Twitter thread. He did the same to another person who had come forward – a standard scare tactic used by those who think they can bully survivors into silence,” Sukumaran tweeted.

“I refused, and told him I would see him in court. I have not heard from his lawyers on this front since. He also filed a police report accusing me of criminal defamation,” tweeted Sukumaran.

Earlier this week, Sukumaran had been notified that she would be charged in court on Wednesday.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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