Journalist groups, NGOs slam arrests of The Malaysian Insider editors under Sedition Act

PETALING JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Journalist groups and non-governmental organisations have condemned the arrests of four The Malaysian Insider editors and The Edge's publisher under the Sedition Act.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned the arrests of The Malaysian Insider (TMI) editors Lionel Morais, Zulkifli Sulong, Amin Shah Iskandar and chief executive Jahabar Sadiq as well as The Edge's publisher Ho Kay Tat over an article on Parti Islam Se-Malaysia's drive to implement hudud Islamic penal code in Kelantan state. They say that the Sedition Act should not have been used to make the arrests.

"Even though the police have the right to question anyone through complaints made by certain groups, we, however, strongly feel that the Sedition Act had been wrongly applied in the editors' case.

"The use of the relevant Act by intimidating the media has been on the rise of late and it has never been accepted by the local media nor been supported by the general public," said general secretary Schave Jerome De Rozario.

He added that that NUJ viewed the use of the Act on journalists as a way to "intimidate and interfere with press freedom".

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) also released a joint statement protesting the arrests.

"If the police intended to investigate TMI for the article, it could have interviewed the people involved without a need to detain them, keep them overnight and apply for a remand order," it said.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen called the arrests shocking noting "(it) constitutes a most serious assault on democracy, press freedom and in particular the independent online press".

Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM), or Malaysian Malays Network, called for the arrests of more media personalities, however.

In a statement on Tuesday, JMM president Azwanddin Hamzah said that The Edge Communication Sdn Bhd board members Tong Kooi Ong, Ahmad Abdullah and Tan Boon Kean should be arrested as well.

He claimed that the three, along with the five individuals arrested, had insulted the Conference of Rulers and Islam.

"The media organisations under the group have been continuously used to attack the Conference of Malay Rulers and Islam," he said.