KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 ― Former sex blogger Vivian Lee’s six-month prison sentence over a “Bak Kut Teh” Raya greeting was set aside by the High Court today that fined her RM5,000 instead.
Justice Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak imposed the fine, the maximum allowable for a first sedition conviction, in lieu of her remaining sentence of five months and 22 days issued by the Sessions Court.
“To my mind, water has passed under the bridge; this happened in 2013 and we are now in 2018,” Mohd Sofian said when making his ruling.
The judge said he reviewed sentences for sedition convictions, ranging from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, and found that most first offenders tend to be punished with fines instead of prison time.
“In this case, I am of the view that justice will prevail if the appellant is sentenced to a maximum fine of RM5,000 in lieu of five months imprisonment,” said Mohd Sofian.
He then warned Lee against repeating her offence, saying the courts will not be as lenient the next time.
Lee was charged in 2013 with then-boyfriend Alvin Tan under the Sedition Act with posting a mock Hari Raya greeting that bore the words carried the words “Selamat Berbuka Puasa (with Bak Kut Teh…fragrant, delicious and appetising)” accompanied by the halal logo.
Tan later skipped bail and fled the country for the US.
The pair were previously dubbed “Alvivi”, a portmanteau of both their names.
Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said he will appeal today’s decision.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, he said this incident offended not only the Malays, but also many among the Chinese community.
“The court should take into consideration the trend and sentiment of all races and not just the Malays, many Chinese condemned the actions of Alvin and Vivian,” said Wan Shaharuddin.
Lee’s lawyer, Chong Joo Tian, said his client will pay the fine this afternoon.
On July 18, 2013, Tan and Lee were charged under three laws: Section 5(1) of the Film Censorship Act, Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act and Section 298A(1) of the Penal Code.
The Sessions Court had, on April 14, acquitted Lee over the display of pornographic images on the duo’s now-defunct blog between July 6 and 7, 2013, while Tan — who did not attend trial — was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal.
The Court of Appeal previously dropped the Penal Code charge against the duo as it ruled the legal provision did not apply to non-Muslims.