Malaysia: Police question journalist over articles on hospital fire inquiry

Boo Su-Lyn, editor-in-chief of health news portal CodeBlue, has been summoned by the police for investigation under the Penal Code following the publication of four articles based on findings from an inquiry into a fatal hospital fire in Johor Baru in 2016. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges authorities to stop this intimidation and drop their investigation.

Boo Su-Lyn. Credit: Facebook

In early March 2020, CodeBlue published a series of four articles highlighting the findings of an independent inquiry into a 2016 fire which claimed the lives of six patients. In line with the inquiry’s damning findings, the articles point out that hospital staff were unprepared,  that for over a decade the Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) did not have  a fire certificate, the hospital’s fire extinguishers were faulty and Medivest Sdn Bhd, which has the operating contract for the hospital, had taken out insufficient insurance cover, The inquiry was conducted by a seven-member committee led by former Court of Appeal Judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Mazlan Lazim confirmed that Boo is being investigated under Section 203A of the Penal Code which criminalises the disclosure of information. Police questioned her on June 26 at the Putrajaya district police headquarters.

Boo is the second journalist to be questioned by Malaysian police this year in the course of carrying out their duties, over reports deemed critical of the government or its policies. Previously, South China Morning Post correspondent, Tashny Sukumaran was questioned on May 6 in connection with an immigration raid at a Covid-19 red zone where migrant workers live in Kuala Lumpur.

Various human rights organisations and media freedom defenders have raised concerns of persecution of media workers in Malaysia including those investigated under the controversial penal code. 

The IFJ said: "Authorities must respect journalists’ rights to publish information in the public interest. The IFJ condemns the questioning of journalists and demands the police to drop the investigation over a series of factual articles into independent inquiry findings."

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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