The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) in strongly criticising the detainment of ten media workers under Malaysia’s Sedition Act for reporting on Islamic criminal laws in recent days. The IFJ and NUJM call on the Malaysian government to immediately release the media workers and end the crackdown on freedom of expression.
On March 31, Ho Kay Tat, the publisher of The Edge, and Jahabar Sadiq, chief executive of The Malaysian Insider were detained by police under Section 223 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and Section 4 of the Sedition Act over the news portals reporting on Islamic criminal laws (hudud). The arrests followed the detainment on March 30 of Lionel Morais, managing editor of The Malaysian Insider, Amin Shah Iskandar, the Bahasa news editor and Zulkifli Sulong the analysis editor. These arrests brings the total number of The Edge Media Group employees arrested under the Sedition Act to ten, including four editors, five media workers and one director.
Ho Kay Tat issued a statement on behalf of The Edge Media Group following the arrests, noting that they were completely unnecessary, as police can meet the journalists at any time to take their statements. According to the statement, The Edge were cooperating with police, however we unable to convince them that not to arrest the three editors overnight.
The arrests came after a police report that was lodged against The Malaysian Insider by officials from the Conference of Rulers. The complaint however was not completely investigated prior to the arrests. The detainees will be brought before the magistrate’s court on March 31.
Schave de Rozario, general secretary of the NUJM said: “The use of the relevant Act by intimidating the media had been on the rise of late and it has never been accepted by the local media nor been supported by the general public. The union believes the police, by invoking the Sedition Act to investigate journalists is regarded as a means to intimidate and interfere with press freedom.”
“NUJ believes all journalists have the right to share insights into cases with the public's interest at hand, to convey public opinion and that the reporter reports not of their own comments. The Government or any law enforcement authorities must act convincingly in this matter and restore its credibility in the eyes of the public and media fraternity and not act in a high-handed manner” said NUJM.
Jane Worthington, acting director of the IFJ Asia Pacific said: “Over the past 12 months, the Malaysian government has increasingly used the Sedition Act to silence critics and intimidate the media. The Malaysian media continues to be threatened with its use and journalists are intimidated by potential jail sentences. The continued invoking of the Sedition Act by the government and authorities against the media is working to weaken democracy in Malaysia and violate freedom of expression.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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