By Seven former media practitioners in DAP
Mar 31, 2015
We strongly condemn the recent arrests of four senior editors and the CEO of a media group under the draconian and repressive Sedition Act, in what is a clear and blatant attempt to silence and intimidate the media.
At about 6pm yesterday, three editors of online news portal The Malaysian Insider (TMI) – managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa Malaysia editor Amin Shah Iskandar, and features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong – were arrested and the TMI office raided under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act and the Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act.
This morning, two more senior personnel – chief executive Jahabar Sadiq and CEO of The Edge Group (which owns TMI) Ho Kay Tat – were arrested when they went to the Dang Wangi police station to give their statements to the police.
They were arrested in relation to an article published on March 25, which said the Conference of Rulers had rejected a proposal to amend a federal law that would pave the way for hudud to be enforced in Kelantan. This was later denied by the Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal, who lodged a police report against the article.
As former journalists ourselves, we condemn the actions of the police in their heavy-handed and indiscriminate use of this pre-Independence law – a sign that the government is desperately clutching at straws to assert its iron grip over an increasingly aware and angered citizenry.
If indeed certain parties had taken issue to the report, which they believe to be erroneous, there is always the option to take civil action and sue the news portal, or to issue a denial to the report. The right of reply is one granted to all; there is no need to arrest and detain the media for performing its duties.
Arresting journalists and editors is sheer intimidation and a form of bullying, and a disgraceful act for a nation that claims to be a democracy.
Perhaps the government needs to be reminded that Malaysia last year dropped to a historic low in the World Press Freedom Index, plunging to a rank of 147th out of 180 countries – a dismal ranking that is a result of continued harassment of the media, tight control over printing licences and the muzzling of free speech.
Malaysia was ranked 145 out of 179 countries in 2013, which was a drop of 23 points from 2012, further showing the slippery slide backwards in freedom of the press.
We cannot underestimate the importance of a free press as a key element of a vibrant and effective democracy, and the continued persecution of the media – as well as politicians and activists – is a sign that Malaysia is not the ‘best democracy in the world’ as espoused by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The situation today is reminiscent of 1987’s Ops Lalang, a massive crackdown which saw more than 100 activists, politicians and intellectuals arrested under the Internal Security Act; publication licences of three newspapers revoked; and which has forever left a black mark on press freedom in our country.
We demand the immediate release of not only the TMI editors and executives, but of all those still detained.
1. Lim Kit Siang (DAP parliamentary leader, former journalist of Singapore Straits Times);
2. Chow Kon Yeow (exco member, Penang, former journalist of The Star);
3. Ng Wei Aik (MP for Tanjong, former journalist of Nanyang Siang Pau);
4. Lee Kee Hiong (state assemblyperson for Kuala Kubu Baru, former journalist of Tong Bao);
5. Wong May Ing (state assemblyperson for Pantai Remis, former journalist of Oriental Daily);
6. Wong Shu Qi (state assemblyperson for Senai, former journalist of Merdeka Review);
7. Medaline Chang She Yun (DAP Wanita publicity secretary, former sub-editor at Star Publications).