PUTRAJAYA, Friday 3 October 2014
Journalists today handed over to the Government a petition protesting the arrest of a journalist last month under the Sedition Act and called on the Government to enhance the freedom of citizens by repealing the Act and halting its further use until the law is abolished as promised.
They also called for any charges against journalist Susan Loone to be dropped. Loone was arrested in Penang on Sept 4 over a report on police action against a state executive councillor.
“We are not merely asking the Government to free Susan Loone of all charges but by presenting our petition, we are also asking for the government to enhance the freedom of all citizens,” said Tashny Sukumaran, spokesperson for the team from the Institute of Journalists Malaysia and Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) that presented the petition to the Prime Minister’s Office here.
Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, press secretary to the Prime Minister, received the petition and promised to hand the document over to Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
During the half hour meeting, he told representatives from Geramm and IoJ that the application of the Act came under the police and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
He said that support for abolishing the Sedition Act was mixed, as some groups wanted the law to remain.
The petition, bearing the signatures of more than 200 journalists from across a range of media, is addressed to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Attorney-General, with copies to the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief Police Officer of Penang.
“The Sedition Act inculcates a culture of fear, not just among citizens, but particularly among journalists in view of what happened to Susan Loone, who was merely carrying out her duties in reporting on a matter of public interest.
“We note that the Act has been widely used in recent weeks against private citizens voicing their opinion on a range of topics.
“While we cannot speak for them, we believe that in Susan Loone’s case the use of the Sedition Act was unjustified in that she reported and wrote a factual account about the arrest of a state executive councillor. Her report could not, in any way, be seen as seditious in the sense of provoking general unrest among the population or an uprising against the authorities,” said Tashny.
The IoJ and Geramm hoped that the petition would underscore the grave concern with which journalists and the journalism community regards the recent crackdown on freedom of speech.
“We believe wholeheartedly that all journalists should be able to carry out their duties professionally, without facing hindrance or harassment, whether from the authorities, or any other quarter,” said Fazallah Pit of Geramm.
The Institute of Journalists Malaysia is a non-profit organisation which seeks to be the professional body of Malaysian journalists at all levels and across all media streams and languages.