Analysis

Ruling On Sharma Should Be A Warning On Political Comments On Social Media

What is sad is that despite the Fiji Sun exposing Mr Sharma’s comments, he still went on to contest the 2018 general elections under SODELPA’s banner. He had received 130 votes- 26 from the Central Division, 24 from the Eastern Division, 36 from the Western Division, 41 from the Northern Division and three through postal ballot.
17 Jul 2019 18:47
Ruling On Sharma Should Be A Warning On Political Comments On Social Media
Anirudh Sharma (right), with his lawyer outside the Civil High Court in Suva on July 15, 2019. Photo: Ashna Kumar

Analysis:

On Monday, the Civil High Court in Suva found a failed Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) 2018 general elections candidate guilty of contempt of court.

He is to be sentenced on August 12.

Anirudh (Ezekiel) Sharma had put up a post scandalising the Judiciary and made a completely outrageous comment on his Facebook account. The decision by the Attorney-General to take this matter to court is praiseworthy.

What is sad is that despite the Fiji Sun exposing Mr Sharma’s comments, he still went on to contest the 2018 general elections under SODELPA’s banner. He had received 130 votes- 26 from the Central Division, 24 from the Eastern Division, 36 from the Western Division, 41 from the Northern Division and three through postal ballot.

People may remember how in the lead up to the 2018 General Election, people including politicians thought they had a free run on Facebook, that they could get away with inciting hatred against various communities, create and widen divides between Fijians.

This is why such a landmark ruling is welcomed.

Disservice to the country

Some politicians with their eyes on the goal of winning in an elections have done a great disservice to country. This was evident in the lead up to the 2014 and 2018 General Elections.

Many politicians of course hide behind the excuse that their accounts were either cloned or hacked.

Fake accounts became the number one excuse when politicians were called out. Mr Sharma had also tried that excuse for another post that was posted up from the same account.

SODELPA should have taken the principled approach when court proceedings were first brought against Mr Sharma.

They should have not only distanced themselves, but should have expelled Mr Sharma from the Party. But they chose not to.

They allowed him to stand for the 2018 General Elections under their banner. Should that be taken as their approval of what he had written? Perhaps.

While a civil case was filed against Mr Sharma, we need to hold them to account in the criminal jurisdiction. With this ruling cementing that he had scandalised the judiciary, it is time his comments be examined along the lines of whether it was intended to give rise to communal antagonism.

Kudos to our judiciary for standing up against such unwarranted attacks on the institute.

This needs to be a stern warning to all politicians who think they can get away with making disparaging comments on social media. They will not get away with it. They should not be allowed to get away with it.

Comments made on social media such as Facebook are not immune to court action. As shown in at least three cases already in Fiji – (Emosi Radrodro and Fiji Fashion Week), (Rajendra Chaudhry’s matter which is up for appeal and now this case.

People have been taken to task and will continue to be taken to task if they break the law, whether they did it sitting behind a keyboard  inside their house or said it in an email as was the case when Doctor Isireli Biumaitotoya emailed a number of lies about his landlord.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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