Joining other groups in condemning the raid on malaysiakini was the Bar Council which described the action as “unreasonable and unwarranted”.
In a press statement yesterday, its vice-chairperson Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said the act was a “hindrance to a progressive nation that is thriving to achieve developed status by 2020″.
On the confiscation of computer hardware from malaysiakini’s office, he said there was no necessity for the police to seize the operational equipment of the website to prove a charge of sedition.
He added the offending publication was readily available and in the normal course of investigation, the online daily’s editor-in-chief Steven Gan or any staff could have been interviewed and asked to provide the required information.
“Failing which, the police could have taken appropriate measures against them under the law,” he said.
Suppress freedom of speech
Kuthubul said the raid and seizure appeared to be an attempt to suppress freedom of speech.
“The extreme action taken by the police seems to be an attempt to silence the voice of dissent and to suppress freedom of speech which is the right of all Malaysians…Public debate should never be curtailed in such a fashion,” he stressed.
A 10-member police team comprising personnel from the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters and the Dang Wangi district police headquarters raided malaysiakini at 12.30pm on Monday.
The team, led by Bukit Aman computer crimes head Supt Mohd Kamaruddin Md Din, held a 90-minute discussion with senior staff before seizing the equipment for “forensic investigation”.
The raid was in reaction to a police report by Umno Youth claiming that a letter published by malaysiakini on Jan 9 was seditious as it questioned the special rights accorded to the Malays.
However, malaysiakini maintains that the letter was not seditious in nature but a factual comparative study.
The computer hardware were seized when Gan refused to name the letter writer, citing professional ethics.
Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai stressed that malaysiakini would not be forced to reveal the source of the letter as police have their own ways of obtaining this information.
He also added the police was not planning to stop the website’s operations.
Meanwhile New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had written a letter to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday to express its “outrage” by the police raid.
The letter, signed by CPJ acting director Joel Siman, wants the government to “return malaysiakini’s property immediately and to drop the threat to pursue legal action”.
“By publishing letters from its readers and protecting its source, malaysiakini is upholding the internationally accepted standards of a free press in facilitating public discussion of controversial issues.”
The letter was copied to 26 personalities and organisations, including to deputy prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Malaysian Human Rights Organisation.