Release and cease the harassment against Orang Asli protestors and journalists
24 January 2017
Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and appalled at the Kelantan Forestry Department’s arrest of 16 Orang Asli protestors over their anti-logging barricades in Pos Bihai, Gua Musang and 2 journalists/documentary makers from Channel News Asia who covered the event.
These arrests are a serious assault on democracy and freedom of the press and must be condemned. Such high handed behaviour will only send a chilling message to the press to self-censor or not cover such events or else they may be arrested.
We would like to remind the Kelantan government that journalism is not a crime and these journalists were merely performing their role in reporting an issue of grave importance and of public interest.
Press freedom is an indispensable component of any modern and democratic society as it functions as a form of check and balance against government excesses, as in this particular case.
The extensive logging activities on the Orang Asli’s customary lands have had serious repercussion on the environment, their traditional way of life and livelihoods, leading them to set up barricades to prevent further logging at the forest reserve.
The Orang Asli have endured their homes, livelihood, food and water sources being destroyed. Their customary lands have been seized and their burial grounds desecrated. Now, they have been cruelly detained for merely defending what is rightfully theirs.
It is well known that the Orang Asli are one of the most underprivileged and marginalised communities in the country. The Kelantan government and its agencies, rather than assisting them, have chosen to collude with loggers and exploit their customary lands for timber.
Lawyers for Liberty calls for the Kelantan government and its agencies to cease all harassment against the Orang Asli protestors and journalists, for them to be released immediately and unconditionally, and their equipment and other materials returned unharmed.
Lawyers for Liberty