KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Twelve civil society organisations (CSOs) criticised outgoing Gombak police chief Arifai Tarawe today over his threat to sue the Free Malaysia Today (FMT) portal over its reporting on his transfer to the integrity unit at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman.

“It is unacceptable for the police to harass and threaten journalists and media organisations for fulfilling their responsibility to report on matters of public importance. The public also has the right to comment on and discuss issues such as deaths in police custody, which continue to happen with alarming frequency.

“Human rights organisation Suaram has documented at least eight cases in 2020, with at least 104 people having died in custody from 2011 to 2018.

“These threats of lawsuits and investigations by the police are an attack on media freedom and a violation of the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Federal Constitution,” said the CSOs in a joint statement today.

Among the CSOs were Amnesty International Malaysia, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), TENAGANITA, Suaram and Sisters in Islam.

Malaysiakini today reported that Arifai has initiated legal action demanding RM10 million and an apology from FMT over two articles on his forthcoming transfer to Bukit Aman.

Arifai, in a statement yesterday, claimed the two articles painted a negative perception of his integrity and name.

He also claimed the articles gave the impression that he and the police were fully responsible for the death of A. Ganapathy at the Gombak police station.

Arifai on April 30 said there was no evidence that Ganapathy died while in police custody.