Opposition lawmakers voice concern over recent trend of probing and charging activists

·2-min read
Maria says the government has again opted to take the path of oppression by conveniently abusing laws to suppress free speech. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Maria says the government has again opted to take the path of oppression by conveniently abusing laws to suppress free speech. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 — Several Opposition federal lawmakers raised concern today about the recent spate of police investigations against protest organisers and a member of the press, calling the move an infringement of the right to free expression.

Maria Chin Abdullah, the independent Petaling Jaya MP, said the investigations were seemingly intended to intimidate dissenting voices.

“The government has again taken the path of oppression by conveniently abusing laws to suppress free speech which is a right upheld by Article 19 of the Federal Constitution,” Chin said in a statement.

Among those who have been hauled up for questioning were Sekretariat Solidarity Rakyat members, contract doctors who organised a strike to demand employment security and an editor of a health news website over a report about the Covid-19 outbreak at the Setia City vaccination centre.

The police had also charged activist Heidy Quah over her Facebook posting depicting the sub-standard conditions of immigration detention centres, which human rights groups have long drawn attention to.

The investigations were launched under several laws the MPs deemed to be punitive, including Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (AKM 1998).

Maria suggested the latter Act had been used selectively to target activists. Those convicted under AKM 1998 can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to RM50,000 or both for making comments deemed “offensive” on the internet.

“The government is also using heavy compounds to sow fear and silence dissent,” the Petaling Jaya MP said.

The statement, undersigned by Maria and seven other MPs, has called for the authorities to drop all charges.

“Instead the government should focus on fighting the rise of Covid-19 because more than 8,000 people have died from it,” the statement said.


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