Aliran notes with dismay the investigation of yet another civil society activist, this time the director of NGO Refuge for Refugees, Heidy Quah, under Section 500 of the Penal Code (for defamation) and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (improper use of network facilities or network services).
Heidi Quah was recently called by the police for questioning over her Facebook posting some time ago on the alleged mistreatment of refugees at immigration detention centres.
As highlighted by the Centre for Independent Journalism and more recently by Human Rights Watch, we are witnessing a growing trend of suppression of dissent and views under the Perikatan Nasional administration through the use of oppressive laws.
The suppression is legitimised by the use of a variety of laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and expression. The use of these laws has extended to hauling up those raising legitimate questions, expressing legitimate views and highlighting possible human rights violations and abuse.
Criticisms levelled at state agencies or views that are opposed to the current administration’s must not be shut down or silenced. Rather, they should spur the government to improve the delivery of services and the practice of good governance principles.
If at all the authorities feel such criticisms are unfounded or inaccurate, a better response would be for them to hold a press conference or issue a press release. That would allow them to highlight inaccuracies in reporting, make clarifications or insist on a right of reply.
This sober approach is adopted in many mature democracies, and it explains why you don’t see the authorities in those countries going after activists and hauling up reporters for questioning.
There is no reason why Malaysia cannot strive to improve and meet international standards on a range of issues. We need to move forward, not slide backwards.
Intimidation through the use of laws and state apparatus must stop.Aliran executive committee
10 July 2020