Two more media executives in Malaysia arrested over hudud report, bringing total to 5

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police have arrested two more media executives over a report on the Islamic penal code or hudud, a day after three editors from the news portal, The Malaysian Insider (TMI), were detained.

Mr Ho Kay Tat, publisher and group CEO of TMI's parent company, The Edge Media Group, and Mr Jahabar Sadiq, TMI's chief executive and editor, were detained on Tuesday morning after they turned up at the Dang Wangi police station to make statements, according to the news portal.

On Monday night, managing editor Lionel Morais, features editor Zulkifli Sulong and Malay news editor Amin Iskandar were arrested over the news report on discussions about the hudud. Police raided their office and confiscated computers and other items.

The three editors will be released on Tuesday evening as their remand was denied by the magistrate's office, reported Malay Mail Online, citing their company lawyer, Syahredzan Johan.

The Star, citing a police souce, said that the police will apply for a remand for Mr Ho and Mr Jahabar on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has denied involvement in the arrests, telling reporters that he was not "directly involved" in operational activities of the police. “The matter could be because of the police report made by the representative of the Conference of Rulers,” he was cited as saying by Malay Mail Online.

The TMI report on March 25 said the Conference of Rulers had rejected a proposal to amend a federal law that could allow the hudud to be enforced in Kelantan. But the next day, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal filed a police report saying that the Conference of Rulers did not discuss the matter.

Mr Syahredzan said the editors and executives are being investigated for sedition and improper use of network service that is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character”.

Before he was taken in, Mr Jahabar said the arrests "appear to go beyond just our reportage about one hudud article", according to TMI.  

He added that the news portal will "continue to report without fear or favour despite these arrests".

Malaysia’s Sedition Act, which dates from British colonial times, criminalises speech with an undefined “seditious tendency”. Critics said the government has used the law to silence dissent, preventing open debate and discussion.

The previous arrest for sedition that involved the media was in September 2014, when a reporter from news portal Malaysia Kini was taken in for questioning but later released.