How Eric Paulsen's Jakim Tweet Landed Him In Trouble With The Sedition Act

When tweeting an opinion can be misconstrued as being seditious and result in an arrest.

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Human Rights Lawyer, Eric Paulsen, Is The First Person To Be Charged With Sedition In 2015

For accusing Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department (Jakim) of promoting extremism on Twitter, lawyer Eric Paulsen was charged with sedition today.

He is the first person to be charged with sedition this year following the federal government's apparent crackdown on opposition politicians and civil society last year under the colonial-era law.

Civil liberties activist Eric Paulsen today pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court today to a charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for allegedly accusing the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) of spreading extremism during their Friday sermons. Bail was set at RM5,000 but later reduced to RM2,000 following submissions from Paulsen’s counsel.

14 JAN: Eric Paulsen Released On Bail And Maintains His Tweet Was Within His Legal Rights

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen was freed on police bail on Wednesday at 4.30 pm after being held under remand for two days.

Paulsen said the incident served as a lesson for him and he would definitely choose his words carefully in the future. "The tweet uploaded was perceived differently by the public. People who know me would know I did not meant any harm when posting the tweet," he said.

“I believe that what I said was within the bounds of the law and what I said was protected by the Federal Constitution’s provisions for freedom of speech. My tweet clearly referred to Jakim as an agency under the PM’s department. I cannot comment further as the matter is currently under police investigation,” Paulsen told The Star when contacted.

Paulsen Had No Problems With Police Treatment And Kept Mum On The Investigation

Speaking to reporters at the headquarters, Paulsen said the investigation was carried out by Dang Wangi and Bukit Aman police. However he declined to comment further on the investigation.

“I cannot say anything more since the case is under police investigation. I don’t want to be seen as hampering their probe,” said Paulsen who appeared before the waiting media in a white shirt and blue jeans.

“However, I will be issuing a statement after discussions with my colleagues.”

“The police were professional and treated me well, but I feel the arrest and detention was not necessary because we already had plans to meet with the police on two occasions. I spoke to the police on Sunday and my lawyer Latheefa Koya spoke to the police on Monday to confirm the meeting,” he said.

13 JAN: On Monday night, 12 Jan 2015, Eric Paulsen was picked up by the police in Brickfields to be investigated under the Sedition Act 1948

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Earlier today, it was reported that the IGP had said that Paulsen would be investigated under the Sedition Act 1948.

Eric Paulsen, co-founder and executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights and law reform organisation, is the first to be investigated under the sedition act in 2015

Lawyers for Liberty is a human rights and law reform initiative that seeks to challenge the many unconstitutional, arbitrary and unreasonable decisions and acts perpetrated by the government, its agencies and other public authorities.

A few days ago, Eric Paulsen posted on Twitter insinuating that Jakim's Friday sermons are endorsing extremism and should be addressed by the government

Lawyer Eric Paulsen, who landed himself in controversy over a message he posted on Twitter claiming the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) was promoting extremism in sermons at mosques during Friday prayers

The tweet had caused an uproar and has since been removed after receiving backlash, as well as a few death threats

Earlier today, Paulsen had lodged a police report at the Petaling Jaya police headquarters alleging he had received death threats on Twitter and WhatsApp over the tweet he made last week.

Paulsen said he was surprised to have been accused of criticising Islam because of the posting.

"When I said Friday, I meant it in the general sense," he said, adding that he had been receiving threats via social media, including on Twitter and through the WhatsApp mobile messaging service.

Among the threats, he said, included “You should be dead by now” and “Nak kena cincang mamat ni” (This guy is asking to be slashed).

However, Eric Paulsen has provided clarification that the tweet was in regards to Jakim as a government agency. It wasn't his intention to insult Islam.

"I only criticised Jakim, a government agency under the ministry. My tweet did not even refer to Islam.

"The statement was misunderstood by the public," Paulsen told reporters after lodging the report at the PJ police station today.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is having none of it and wants Paulsen held for sedition over his remark

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has urged the authorities to investigate Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen over his statement accusing the Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim) of promoting extremism through the Friday sermons.

"The relevant authorities should investigate Paulsen's statement and appropriate action be taken as many non-Muslims do not understand what Islam really is.

"This time, we want real stern action taken against him so that he does not repeat his misdeed," he said.

Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Asia Division Phil Robertson is shocked by the arrest of Paulsen, criticising the actions of our government

Malaysia is rapidly becoming a human rights disaster zone with Putrajaya holding on to its conviction that intimidation and intolerance was the best way for it to hold on to power, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) following the arrest of Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) co-founder Eric Paulsen yesterday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch, Asia Division, has expressed shock in a statement on Tuesday that the Inspector General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, has little interest or commitment in stopping the ongoing plague of suspicious deaths in police custody.

“There’s no escaping a conclusion that the government’s actions are severely threatening freedom of expression and fostering a climate of increased political and religious intolerance.”

Robertson went on to point out that criminalising Paulsen's tweet shows that the actions of government agency, Jakim equates to the symbol of religion

Criminalising Eric Paulsen’s tweet is truly frightening, he added, because it shows that some in the Malaysian government are apparently conflating the actions of a government agency, JAKIM, with the embodiment of religion.

"It's similar to verbal attacks like 'damn Umno' against a political party being considered as a threat to national security.

"In Najib's Malaysia, all the lines are becoming blurred, respect for principles of human rights and democracy is breaking down, and any comment the authorities don't like becomes potentially seditious.

According to the Lawyers for Liberty's Facebook page, Paulsen currently has 11 reports filed against him, and has had his mobile and laptop confiscated

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What do you think about Eric Paulsen being investigated for sedition? Do you agree or disagree? Facebook or Tweet us with the hashtag #ericpaulsen

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