Edge, TMI arrests point to gaping human rights ‘black hole’, says activist
In a statement today, the global human rights group urged Putrajaya to bring its laws in line with international human rights standards, so that the country enjoys the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
It added that the escalating “sedition” clampdown on opposition leaders and activists is a sign of a rapidly shrinking space for dissent and debate in the country under the guise of maintaining public order.
"At least 29 people have been arrested or are being investigated for sedition at the end of the first quarter of 2015… the same number of known sedition arrests and investigations throughout all of 2014.
"A human rights black hole is developing, where freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are severely restricted, even precluded.
"Malaysian authorities must end the use of the 1948 Sedition Act to criminalise criticism of the government. The act should be repealed," the group said.
AI’s statement today came on the heels of the arrests of The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat, The Malaysian Insider (TMI) chief executive officer Jahabar Sadiq, managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa news editor Amin Iskandar and features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong earlier this week.
They were arrested under Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for improper use of network facilities or network service.
The arrests were made over a report published on March 25 which said that the Conference of Rulers had rejected a proposal to amend a federal law that would pave the way for hudud, or the Islamic penal code, to be enforced in Kelantan.
The newsmen are being investigated under Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act 1948, which carries a maximum fine of RM5,000, a maximum three-year jail term or both.
They are also being investigated under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 for improper use of network facilities or network service
AI said the arrests of the journalists were the latest example of the outdated Sedition Act being used as a "politically motivated tool to muzzle critics and to silence public debate."
It also raised concerns over the Prevention of Terrorism Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday.
It said such new laws gave Putrajaya more sweeping arrest powers and there were fears that they would be used to arrest and lock up critics, just like how the Sedition Act and the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) had been used.
"The proposed law includes several worrying provisions. The bill is problematic in that it will, like the defunct ISA, allow for the detention of suspected terrorists without trial and without judicial review," it said.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders also condemned the arrests of the five journalists from TMI and The Edge.
The global non-profit organisation described the arrests as an "aim of pressuring independent media to censor themselves and prevent them working freely".
Benjamin Ismail, who heads the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk, demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Jahabar and Ho.
Ho and Jahabar, who were detained yesterday, are still in custody since their arrests while police apply to remand them further for investigation.
Morais, Amin and Zulkifli were released last night after the Magistrate's Court rejected the police's remand application.
Source, The Malaysian Insider : http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/edge-tmi-arrests-poi...
– April1, 2015.