GEORGE TOWN, Sept 3 — Malaysiakini and its Penang-based reporter, Susan Loone, will be investigated for sedition over a report on a police crackdown on the state’s volunteer patrol unit (PPS), becoming latest targets of an ongoing suppression of public dissent by authorities.
Penang police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi said Loone and the news portal will be investigated under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for publishing allegedly seditious materials.
“We have not called the reporter in for questioning yet, but we are investigating the case for sedition,” he told reporters while confirming that multiple reports were lodged by various Malay rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) against the two.
The reports were lodged over an article titled, “Disoalsiasat selama 4 jam, dakwa dilayan seperti penjenayah (Interrogated for four hours, treated like a criminal)” that was published on Monday, which reported the conditions experienced by a state lawmaker arrested in Sunday’s swoop on the unit.
Today, Abdul Rahim insisted that the allegations in the article were unfounded as the police had acted according to the standard operating procedures (SOP) when recording statements from those assisting in police investigations.
“It is part of police SOP to ask questions, to take photographs and to have fingerprints taken for the purpose of documentation,” Abdul Rahim said.
Yesterday, the Coalition of Penang Malay Representatives (G-PEM) lodged police reports against Malaysiakini and Loone for allegedly defaming the police force in the article.
The article, written by Loone, quoted state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh whom she interviewed through a phone call at 1.30am while he was still in police custody over the Penang volunteer patrol (PPS) unit issue.
Phee was arrested after police detained 155 PPS members after a Merdeka Day parade; Phee is the state lawmaker in charge of the unit.
She quoted Phee as saying he was “treated like a criminal” where he was interrogated for four hours, photographed and fingerprinted.
G-PEM president Mohd Rizuad Mohd Azuddin, who is also state Perkasa Youth chief, accused Loone of trying to incite hatred against the police force with the article.
He also offered to engage a lawyer on behalf of the police to sue Malaysiakini and Loone for defamation.
When asked about Phee’s claims, Abdul Rahim pointed out that the fact the state exco had his mobile phone with him at the time Loone called him showed that the police had given some concessions.
“He had the privilege of being allowed to have his mobile phone with him when usually, anyone in police custody will not be allowed to have their personal effects including mobile phones with them,” he said.
After news of the police investigating the news portal and Loone for sedition came to light, the Penang state government offered legal assistance to the portal.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said journalists should not be penalised for reporting the news, especially when Loone was only reporting what Phee said.
“It wasn’t an opinion piece but she was merely quoting Phee so she should not be penalised for it,” he said while condemning G-PEM for lodging police reports against the portal and its reporter.
Malaysiakini and Loone are the latest casualties in a growing blitz on public dissent that has so far seen three opposition lawmakers and a Universiti Malaya law professor charged with sedition in under a week.
This is in addition to others already being prosecuted under the colonial era law that Putrajaya repeatedly insists it will repeal, after pledging to do so in 2012.