Journalist arrested under sedition act

Statement form our member, the Centre for Independent Journalism on the arrest of Malaysiakini journalist Susan Loone under the Sedition Act earlier today:

Release Susan Loone, stop harassing the media

The Centre for Independent Journalism is appalled that journalist Susan Loone has been arrested under the Sedition Act for reporting the comments of a Penang Executive Councillor, according to a report on Malaysiakini. 

In a classic case of shooting the messenger, Loone has been detained by police for reporting what somebody else has said. She was contacted by police around 11.30pm on 3 September 2014, and arrived at the Northeast District Police Headquarters in Penang, Malaysia, around 3pm on 4 September, where she was arrested. She is expected to be released on police bail later tonight.

Loone’s arrest is the latest in a spate of investigations that are clearly aimed at curtailing legitimate voices of dissent. Earlier in the same week, police announced that they would investigate Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom for giving a legal opinion about the resolution of the Perak crisis of 2009.

It is ironic that these investigations are taking place after the government’s stated intention to repeal the Sedition Act, a hangover from the colonial era. The Act is broadly worded and poses a significant threat to the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Further, the history of prosecutions under the Act show that it is almost exclusively used against critics of the government or State institutions.

Loone’s arrest comes after she interviewed councillor Phee Boon Poh on his arrest, along with over 150 others, as part of a voluntary organisation set up by the Penang State Government. While generally supportive of the police, he also said that he had been treated “like a criminal”.

It is the right of individuals, regardless of standing, to complain about their treatment at the hands of the authorities, especially the police. These complaints should be taken seriously, and if necessary investigated impartially, so that we can strengthen both the capacity and the public image of our officials.

The Centre for Independent Journalism calls for an immediate end to investigations under the Sedition Act, a piece of legislation that is already slated for repeal; and for its repeal to be considered a matter of urgency. Too many Malaysians are losing their fundamental rights to freedom or expression and movement as a result of this arcane law.

Sonia Randhawa
Director, Centre for Independent Journalism

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