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Stop going after activists and focus on the health crisis

Photograph by Geralt/Pixabay

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Aliran is appalled that the authorities are taking action against two activists who have expressed concern about issues close to their heart during this pandemic.

In June last year, refugee aid advocate Heidi Quah posted on her Facebook about alleged deplorable conditions in immigration detention centres during the pandemic through a former detainee’s eyes. It was around the time when mass immigration raids and arrests were taking place.

Quah, the founder of Refuge for the Refugees, was charged today at the Cyber Crimes Court at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur under Section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

All she wanted to do was to highlight her concerns about the conditions in immigration detention centres and the harm that would be caused by sending more people into immigration detention centres, known to be overcrowded and unhygienic.

We are also concerned about the plight of Boo Su-Lyn, the chief editor of the Code Blue health news portal.

She was hauled up yesterday about an article which claimed that the management of a vaccination centre did not inform volunteers about four Covid infection cases and that no mass screenings had been conducted.

The Covid immunisation taskforce reportedly confirmed the infections a day later: it said seven staff at the centre had tested positive, and the management immediately sanitised the centre.

Boo is being investigated under the Penal Code for intent to create public fear and alarm and under the Communications and Multimedia Act for using a network to communicate false or offensive content.

It is disappointing that the authorities, instead of focusing on the pandemic, appear to be going after public-spirited activists.

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The activists concerned have done commendable work in highlighting the plight of refugees, in Quah’s case, and raising awareness of health-related issues, in Boo’s case.

We call on the authorities to desist from penalising Quah and Boo for merely highlighting issues of public interest.

If the authorities are unhappy with what they have reported, they could have just immediately refuted their claims, instead of resorting to such punitive action.

By taking such repressive action, the authorities show they are unwilling to learn from or listen to the people. Worse, such action is unbecoming of a nation that aspires to sit on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term, having submitted a long list of pledges to clean up its human rights record.

Aliran executive committee
27 July 2021
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