KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Released from custody after a night in the lock-up, a senior journalist with The Malaysian Insider (TMI) censured the police for hauling up three members of the editorial team for sedition.
The news portal’s Bahasa Malaysia editor Amin Shah Iskandar, who was released just minutes ago together with its managing editor Lionel Morais and features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong, said the police did not have to arrest or keep the trio for the maximum 24 hours to facilitate investigations over a dubious news report published on TMI.
“They came to our office and we gave them the cooperation. [If] they called us to the police station we can go… we have been investigated before and we always co-operate.
“So this arrest is unacceptable in a democratic country,” Amin told reporters outside the Dang Wangi district police headquarters where he and his colleagues had been held since yesterday evening.
Morais thanked TMI’s supporters and well wishers for the moral support shown.
“On behalf of TMI, I would like to thank all of you for the support you have shown in the last two days… this crowd here today tells us that as journalists we stand united,” he said.
Morais added that the editors would continue their practice to be “as accurate as possible”, when asked if they would start self-censorship.
“We are professionals… we try to do the best we can and we will try to be as accurate as possible,” he said.
But the three editors declined to comment on the denial issued by a representative of Conference of Rulers, whom they had linked to their news report on the ongoing hudud controversy, saying the case was under police investigation.
Lawyer for the trio, Syahredzan Johan told reporters that several other TMI employees were also questioned by the police today; they included its human resources manager, two sub-editors, and the news portals IT manager.
The news portal’s chief executive Jahabar Sadiq and Ho Kay Tat, the CEO of The Edge Media Group that owns TMI, were arrested this morning when they went to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters to have their statements recorded.
Jahabar and Ho are also spending a night in the lock-up until their remand application is heard tomorrow morning.
“We hope the same will happen to them during their remand hearing… that it will also be denied because there is no reason to detain them further,” the lawyer said.
The magistrate refused to grant a remand order to the police against Lionel, Amin and Zulkifli, which prompted their release after the 24-hour limit elapsed.
Though looking visibly exhausted, the trio said the police had treated them well during their detention.
“I am quite sure, personally, orders to detain them came from above… it’s the top people who should answer as to why these journalists need to be detained and why Jahabar and Ho need to be detained,” Syahredzan said.
The trio were represented by a team of seven lawyers including Syahredzan and former Bar Council chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
A small group of journalists, family members and well-wishers had been standing by outside the Dang Wangi police station in solidarity since this afternoon and cheered when the trio exited.
A candlelight vigil is currently being held for Jahabar and Ho outside the police station.
Last week, TMI ran a report citing an unnamed source as claiming that the Conference of Rulers had rejected proposed legal amendments that would allow hudud to be enforced. This was later denied by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, who also lodged a police report over the article.
BN MPs then called for legal action against the news portal over the report and for reporting “twisted facts” in another article on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s speech on the Sedition Act during yesterday’s Police Day celebration.
Besides the editors and their publisher, Universiti Malaya lecturer Khoo Ying Hooi, who is also a TMI columnist, is being investigated under Section 500 of the Penal Code for criminal defamation over an article titled “Who owns the police?”