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Malaysia: Criminal investigation against journalist threatens press freedom

    May 04, 2020

    Responding to news that South China Morning Post journalist Tashny Sukumaran is being investigated by the Malaysian Royal Police for reporting on the mass arrests of migrant workers and refugees in Kuala Lumpur on 1 May, Preethi Bhardwaj, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said:

    “Authorities must drop the alarming investigation against Tashny Sukumaran immediately. Journalists who report on human rights abuses related to the pandemic should be able to carry out their work without fear of persecution. During a pandemic, authorities should have more important priorities than prosecuting reporters for articles they don’t like.”

    “The Malaysian government has repeatedly used laws including the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act to curb criticism of the government since the start of the pandemic. Amnesty International Malaysia has long criticised the use of these laws, which are open to arbitrary use by the authorities, to silence journalists, government critics, and human rights defenders. These provisions must go,” Bhardwaj said.

    “Amnesty International Malaysia reiterates that the mass arrest of migrant workers and refugees solely for migration-related reasons is completely unjustifiable, especially in a health emergency. The authorities must urgently release those detained and ensure the protection of their basic rights, including their right to health,” concluded Bhardwaj.

    Background

    On 1 May hundreds of Immigration Department officers and personnel carried out multiple raids on migrants within residences in Kuala Lumpur, currently under an Enhanced Movement Control Order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were aided by members of the police, armed forces, Health Ministry and the Civil Defence Force (APM).

    Tashny Sukumaran reported on the raids, and is being investigated under Section 504 of the Penal code which defines the offence of intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act which defines the offence of improper use of network facilities in order to harass another person. She has been summoned to Royal Malaysian Police Headquarters in Bukit Aman for questioning on Wednesday, 6 May.