Press Statement
TMI raid and arrest, a most serious assault on freedom of the press
31 March 2015

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the police raid on The Malaysian Insider and arrest of its editors Lionel Morais, Zulkifli Sulong and Amin Shah Iskandar for investigation under the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act yesterday. Today, TMI’s chief executive Jahabar Sadiq and The Edge (which owns TMI) group CEO and publisher, Ho Kay Tat were also arrested.

The raid and arrest was in relation to a news article TMI had 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.

It is well known TMI has been critical of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration and was instrumental in highlighting several major and embarrassing scandals, including most recently: the 1MDB.

It is not in dispute TMI published the article in question and any investigation, if needed at all, could have been done in a more professional and less high handed manner. If the article had been found to be inaccurate or misleading, the correct reaction would be to rebut the article and request TMI to retract it or publish a correction.

This massive show of force to detain TMI’s most senior editors and The Edge group CEO, confiscating their equipment and applying for their remand (for yesterday’s arrest) seems clear enough – to send a strong and chilling message to the media to toe the line.

It is clear that the arrests and remand application were not necessary as any investigation could have been done with their cooperation and seem intended as a form of pre-trial punishment.

This raid and arrest over a single article is certainly shocking and appalling to say the least, and constitutes a most serious assault on democracy, press freedom and in particular the independent online press which has since its inception, broken the authorities’ stranglehold over the media and information.

The authorities’ excessive reaction clearly shows the scant respect they have for democratic rights, press freedom and rule of law. Seen in light of more than a hundred arrests in recent months against elected representatives, politicians, activists, lawyers and now members of the press, Malaysia is clearly sliding into a totalitarian state reminiscent of the darkest days of Operation Lalang.

We call upon the authorities to immediately release the five members of the press arrested and cease the ongoing crackdown against civil liberties and dissent.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty
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