Two top media executives arrested for sedition were released on police bail yesterday, a day after their three colleagues from The Malaysian Insider (TMI) news site were similarly freed.
Mr Jahabar Sadiq, TMI's chief executive, and Mr Ho Kay Tat, publisher of business daily The Edge, were arrested on Tuesday over a TMI report which alleged that the Council of Rulers had rejected a proposal to amend a federal law to allow Kelantan to implement hudud. TMI and The Edge are media units owned by The Edge Media Group.
Mr Jahabar, looking relaxed and cheerful, told reporters yesterday: "They took all our statements very professionally. I thank all the police officers for being very kind to us. I still don't know why they are investigating us under the Sedition Act, but I am sure we will find out one day."
Mr Ho said he, too, was well treated by the police.
"I have to thank the police and also MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission)," he told reporters.
Their lawyer, Mr Syahredzan Johan, told The Straits Times that the police were at the tail end of their investigation into the duo, after which the investigation papers will be handed over to the Attorney-General's Chambers.
"A decision will then be made as to whether or not charges will be brought against them. It won't take long, maybe around one to two weeks," he said. "I see this case as a political one and any decision whether or not to charge them will be a political decision, not so much a decision that will be made based on evidence."
Civil rights lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan said the police made the right decision not to apply for remand. "I don't think they should have been arrested. I don't think they should have been handcuffed," she said. "I think the actions of the police are wrong."
The three TMI senior executives released on Tuesday were managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa news editor Amin Shah Iskandar and features editor Zulkifli Sulong.
Their arrests drew flak from politicians, civil societies and press groups. Journalists from various media outlets wore black yesterday to show solidarity.
Opposition Democratic Action Party MP Tony Pua said yesterday that the arrests in the past months were an attempt to silence any form of dissent or criticism against the government.
He said such moves "will only galvanise the opposition supporters and the critics to push the boundaries even further to protect the sanctity of our democratic system".
"These arrests are all political in nature. They started with the politicians, then the activists and it's quite clear they have now moved on to the media," he said.
Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, is expected to be charged with sedition in a Kuala Lumpur court tomorrow. He was arrested after sending out a tweet following opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy conviction in February.