CIJ raises alarm over arrests of citizens for criticising Kedah MB
August 11, 2021
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has expressed concern over the arrests and questioning of citizens for their criticism towards Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor through social media.
Its executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu said such criticism did not warrant arbitrary arrests and investigations, especially the early morning arrest which seemed rather an “overkill”.
“Public officials must be able to take criticism in stride, especially since there is a higher expectation of accountability and good governance from their end.”
“Dissent and criticism are valid forms of expression and are protected in our constitution. No doubt, hate speech and threats of violence and harm are not protected forms of expression, and should, therefore, be restricted.”
“However, in the interest of transparency and accountability, and under international standards, a harm test must first be applied to determine legitimacy, necessity, and proportionality before attacking and restricting expression.”
“Furthermore, the four arrests and investigations clearly illustrate double standards and may allude to an abuse of power,” she said in a statement.
Wathshlah said incidents where public officials could get away with making insensitive and crude remarks without being reprimanded, but those who condemn or criticise them get arrested instead must end.
“This culture must stop. Public officials should be held to account for their actions, and those who speak out against such actions should not be punished.
“We demand that the government stop using regressive legal provisions such as Sections 504 and 505 of the Penal Code, and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, to censor and silence dissenting and non-conforming voices.”
She also called for all investigations into the four individuals and others who were critical or dissenting towards the Kedah MB to be dropped, and expressed solidarity with all those whose freedoms of speech and expression were being restricted in this way.
Sanusi has been under fire for making a joke on a freezer container to hold corpses of Covid-19 victims during a press conference recently.
He later apologised for his remark, claiming that it was taken out of context.