Malaysian blogger, lawyer and human rights activist Charles Hector is in court for a second day today. Good Electronics report that he’s being sued for $ 3.3 million in damages in a defamation case by electronics component manufacturer Asahi Kosei.
The case hinges on comments he made on behalf of a group of Burmese migrant workers in the country, who alleged they had been promised much better pay and conditions by the company than they eventually received. When they complained, they were threatened with termination and deportation.
Worryingly, the trial looks to be stacked against Hector, with the court issuing a statement in advance that the blog posting under discussion was factually incorrect, and refusing to allow the migrant workers affected to join the suit.
Hector is being threatened in what seems to be an attempt to chill discussion of Asahi Kosei’s business and human rights issues in Malaysia. The company works as an outsourced supplier of many major electronics and motor brands, such as Hitachi, Sony, Seagate, Toshiba and JVC – none of whom would be too happy to be dragged into an Apple/Foxconn style labour abuses story.
Calling for such punitive damages is a clear deterrant to other human rights group and individuals from investigating how the company treat their migrant workforce, or representing people in cases where they’ve been abused by employers.
The many migrant workers in Malaysia are in a precarious position, facing deportation and whipping if they lose their jobs, so it takes a lot of courage to become a whistleblower as this group have done. Lets’ hope the court case gets thrown out, so in future it won’t require just as much courage for others to show solidarity with them.
There are a number of things you can do right now:
- Sign Good Electronics’ campaign action to Asahi Kosei’s key customers Hitachi.
- Sign Change.org’s petition on Asahi Kosei’s customers.
- Take Frontline’s online action calling for a fair trial.
- Sign the Asian Human Rights Commission’s petition for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the action.