Lawyers cry police intimidation in Penal Code probe on reporter on Sarawak duty

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan says the police intimidation was an ‘overkill’ and urged the police to stop their ‘bully boy tactics’. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 ― The police went overboard by investigating a journalist under the Penal Code for allegedly misquoting a Barisan Nasional (BN) politician in her report, several lawyers said.

Prominent lawyer and human rights activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan called the act an “overkill” and urged the police to stop their “bully boy tactics”.

“This is an overkill and wholly unnecessary. If they are unhappy about the report they can always write in to the media outlet,” she told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

She said the recent banning of opposition politicians from entering Sarawak ahead of the state elections has now spilled over to a “harassment of the press.”

“These bully boy tactics must stop,” she added.

Lawyers of Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen shared Ambiga’s view.

“If the BN politician has been misquoted, the proper and civilised approach is to write a response to Malaysiakini, not lodging police reports and publishing the reporter’s face in blogs and social media,” he said.

He also branded it a “blatant act of intimidation” and and an “assault on press freedom”.

“The police would be well advised not to entertain such frivolous reports and to focus on real criminal activities rather than what is obviously a politically motivated retaliation against the press,” he said.

Malaysiakini reporter Kow Gah Chie who was in Sarawak to cover the state election had her picture circulated on social media after incumbent Nangka assemblyman Dr Annuar Rapaee claimed he was misquoted in an article she wrote last Thursday.

Six police reports were lodged against the news report and Kow, leading to her being investigated under Section 505 (c) of the Penal Code, for causing public mischief with the reportage.

The article quoted Dr Annuar as saying that Sarawakians should vote for BN to ensure a Muslim leader continues governing the state, which the BN lawmaker claimed was taken out of context.

Section 505(c) deals with any statement, rumour or report “with intent to incite” or “likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons”.

If found guilty, a suspect may be jailed up to two years, or fined, or both.

Lawyer New Sin Yew said the police should have protected Kow instead of investigating her for criminal mischief.

“If she was threatened, the police should have protected her and ensured she could continue to perform her duties,” lawyer New Sin Yew told Malay Mail Online.

“I don’t see how this comes under the Penal Code for public mischief. They can always seek for a correction from the media outlet,” New said.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan has since recalled Kow from Sarawak for her safety, but said the news portal stands by the published article.

 


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