The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM) in condemning the inquiry by police to investigate journalist Susan Loone, in a classic case of shooting the messenger after she published comments made by a Penang Executive Councillor, Phee Boon Poh.
Loone was detained on September 4, after she wrote an article, which included quotes from Peeh. In the article, Peeh said he was “treated like a criminal” during police questioning several days earlier. Susan, a Malaysiakini journalist was arrested by police under Section 4(1)(c) of the 1948 Sedition Act. Malaysiakini, an online news portal, is also being investigated.
The arrest and investigation of Susan Loone and Malaysiakini follows on from a number of arrests in a ‘sedition blitz’, which has led to the arrest of politicians and an academic in recent weeks. The laws date back to the colonial era and were enacted to govern and monitor public discourse to prevent any public actions interpreted as ‘seditious’. But it is the interpretation of what is ‘seditious’ that is of concern for Malaysians. Current interpretations of the Act say any act, speech or words that have a ‘seditious tendency’ can be prosecuted as a criminal offence.
At 3pm on September 4, Susan Loone arrived at the Northeast District police district headquarters. She was then questioned and interrogated for nine hours in response to complaints lodged against her article Disoalsiasat selama 4 jam, dakwa dilayan seperti penjenayah (Interrogated for four hours, treated like a criminal). At 11.45pm she was released on police bail, following the confiscation of her phone and must report back to the district headquarters on October 3.
Loone said, “I was only doing my job as a journalist. I called Phee and he responded to my call. I wrote what he said, there was nothing more to that.”
Chin Sung Chew, President of the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) said: “This action does not augur well for the Government’s promise to allow the Malaysian media to operate freely and without fear of their reporters being detained under questionable reasoning.”
“To abuse relevant Act by intimidating the media had 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 a journalist in regarded as a means to intimidate and interfere with press freedom.”
The IFJ Asia Pacific Acting Director, Jane Worthington said: “The arrest and investigation of Susan Loone highlighted the heavy hand that the Malaysian Government continues to have towards media rights and press freedom in the country. We call for all charges to be dropped immediately.”
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