Recording the police is not a crime
8 November 2020
We are gravely concerned to hear the news that student activist, Wong Yan Ke, was arrested for recording a police raid in connection to a sedition investigation involving Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany).
The arrest was purportedly because the student activist refused to stop recording the raid, which the police allege is tantamount to ‘obstructing a public officer’, an offence under section 186 of the Penal Code.
LFL strongly condemns the arrest as well as the absurd insinuation that recording the police is an offence under section 186 of the Penal Code. The arrest is not justified by mere reference to that provision as the police so far have not offered any explanation as to how the act of recording the raid have impeded their investigation.
Video recording the police is not a crime, and it is on the authorities to justify how it would obstruct them from carrying out their duties. Section 186 of the Penal Code must not be used as a blanket provision to simply arrest anyone who records police conduct, as there is no law to suggest that doing so is against the law.
It is important for us to bear in mind that PDRM is currently in the progress of implementing the use of body cameras, a move that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) himself has said will ensure transparency and prevent abuse of duties by enforcement personnel. Hence, the police cannot now turn around and say that video recording of their actions will impede them from executing their duties.
The importance of recordings of police conduct cannot be understated. In America, many acts of police misconduct and brutality came to light solely from video recordings of body cameras or from members of the public. It has become one of the best tools to ensure police accountability and must not easily be deterred under the guise of obstruction of police duty.
We therefore urge that the police immediately release Wong Yan Ke and cease all investigations under section 186 of the Penal Code. We also call upon the IGP to condemn this arrest and issue a standing order to stop wanton usage of section 186 against members of the public.
Lawyers for Liberty