What Was Seditious About The Malaysian Insider's Incorrect Reporting On Hudud?

What did The Malaysian Insider do wrong? Was the arrest necessary? Your questions about the five journalists who were arrested under sedition answered.

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A dozen police and officers from the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided The Malaysian Insider (TMI) office in Petaling Jaya yesterday evening

The Malaysian Insider managing editor Lionel Morais (left) with MCMC officials at TMI’s office.

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SAC Zainuddin said the raid was conducted by a team from the Bukit Aman Classified Crimes Unit (D5) and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

"Among items confiscated in the raid were laptops and mobile phones," he said.

About a dozen officers from the police, as well as the MCMC, came to the office at 5.52pm today. They spent about half an hour checking an editor's computer, before proceeding to interview Morais, Amin Shah and Zulkifli.

They left with managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa Malaysia features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong and Bahasa Malaysia news editor Amin Iskandar under their arrest

The Malaysian Insider editors Lionel Morais (left), Amin Shah Iskandar (centre) and Zulkifli Sulong (right) were arrested yesterday when police, aided by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) officials, raided TMI's office in Mutiara Damansara.

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Managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa Malaysia features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong and Bahasa Malaysia news editor Amin Iskandar were arrested at about 5.45pm on Monday at Jalan PJU 7/6 here.

Kuala Lumpur CID chief Senior Asst Comm Zainuddin Ahmad said the trio would be investigated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act and Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multi­media Act 1998.

This morning, two more journalists, The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat and TMI chief executive Jahabar Sadiq joined their colleagues in the police station

Both were arrested this morning when they turned up at the Dang Wangi police station for their statements to be taken. Police said they would apply for a remand order for the duo and three other The Malaysian Insider editors arrested last night.

This brings the number of arrests of media personnel to five from the The Edge Media Group: four editors and one director.

The five were arrested under Section 233 of the Sedition Act which deals with “improper use of network facilities or network services”

They were held at the Dang Wangi police headquarters last night and police are expected to apply for their remand orders today.

Why were they arrested?
The Malaysian Insider and The Edge struck the core of two sensitive issues in Malaysia: hudud law and the Malay Rulers

On 25 March 2015, the news publications reported from unnamed sources that the Conference of Rulers had rejected a proposal to amend a federal law that would allow hudud to be enforced in Kelantan

The article said that the proposal to amend the law was in a report by the joint Hudud Technical Committee, which comprised of Kelantan state religious officials and those from the federal government. The joint committee had prepared the report on the proposed amendments for the rulers to consider at their meeting on March 11, but it did not go through.

As it turns out, The Malaysian Insider had misreported the issue. This reporting error led to police reports from various parties lodged against it.

The Keeper of the Rulers' Seal lodged a police report on March 26 to deny that the Conference of Rulers had discussed the matter and that it had never issued any statement on hudud in Kelantan.

On Sunday, Kedah Umno Youth filed a police report against TMI and called for stern action against the portal over the report, while Barisan Nasional MPs also complained about the matter in Parliament.

Over the last two days, Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia has carried several reports calling for action against the portal.

Where is the criminal element in this?

The news portals had behaved "irresponsibly" and had "twisted the facts", says Barisan Nasional MPs

Last week, BN MPs called for legal action against a news portal owned by The Edge Media Group over its report claiming the Conference of Rulers had objected to PAS’s proposed legislative amendments on hudud.

The lawmakers, who included Tanjong Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar, Titiwangsa MP Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani and Lenggong MP Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, said that TMI had behaved “irresponsibly” in its report on the issue.

They also accused the portal of reporting “twisted facts” in another article on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s speech on the Sedition Act during yesterday’s Police Day celebration.

The reporting was "inaccurate and confusing", says Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

Khalid said on Twitter last week that the police would question TMI editors over the news portal’s allegedly 'inaccurate and confusing' reports.

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Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar updated on Twitter on the same day saying that the police will question TMI editors over the news portal’s allegedly “inaccurate and confusing” reports.

The report was provocative in nature and is an attempt to challenge the Ruler's institution, says Communications and Multimedia Minister Shabery Cheek

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Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the news portal's attitude has been deemed regrettable.

“I think the portal’s move not only tests the patience of Malay people, the Malaysians’ patience but also the Conference of Rulers’ patience and challenges the country’s key pillar, " he said during a press conference here, today.

The article said Shabery is provocative in nature just to observe the government’s and people’s reaction to it.

Was the arrest necessary?

"Should the article have been found to be incorrect, it could have been rebutted and TMI requested to retract it or publish a correction," The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)

The news portal’s lawyer Syahredzan Johan says that the three editors were hauled in for investigation over a news report published last week linking the thorny hudud issue to the Conference of Rulers.

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"CIJ questions the high-handedness of the raid and arrests. Should the article have been found to be incorrect, it could have been rebutted and TMI requested to retract it or publish a correction," said CIJ's directors, Sonia Randhawa and Jac Kee, in a statement last night.

"Even if the police wanted to initiate investigations, they could have requested for the requisite information from TMI instead of raiding their office and arresting their editors."

Journalists are duty bound to provide information to the public, "even if it's in the realm of speculation", says Geramm, a loose coalition of journalists and activists

The group said journalists were duty bound to provide information to the public, "even if it's in the realm of speculation".

What do these arrests mean?

According to CIJ, these arrests highlights the worrying trend of a decline in standards Malaysia's freedom of expression

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said the raid on TMI's office and the arrest of managing editor Lionel Morais, Bahasa Malaysia news editor Amin Shah Iskandar and features and analysis editor Zulkifli Sulong, was part of a worrying trend of a decline in standards of freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Geramm views this intimidation and harassment as an attempt to silence the media using unwarranted influence

[Terkini] Saudara Rafizi direman lagi 3 hari.Hanya kerana melawan rasuah dan kezaliman.

Posted by Rafizi Ramli on Friday, 27 March 2015

"We view the act as a form of intimidation and harassment, as well as an attempt to use undue influence to silence the media," it said in a statement.

"While we note that a police report was lodged and that the institution of royalty and its dignity should be protected, so must be the freedom of the media which in itself is an institution in democratic Malaysia." "As such, any attempts to curtail the media's ability to perform its duties is a violation of public's right to information and a threat to democracy."

Ever since the sedition dragnet started in late 2014, Malaysians felt de javu at another Operasi Lalang in the making

The Star newspaper headline on Ops Lalang in 1988.

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Operation Lalang (Operasi Lalang; Weeding Operation, also referred to as Ops Lalang) was a major crackdown carried out beginning 27 October 1987 by the Malaysian police, ostensibly to prevent the occurrence of racial riots in Malaysia. The operation saw the arrest of 106 persons –NGO activists, opposition politicians, intellectuals, students, artists, scientists and others–under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

It also involved the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan. The notion that racial riots were imminent however is contested, and it is widely believed that the operation was designed to control the political opponents of the Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad through draconian measures.

With 158 Malaysians arrested in only two months, Operasi Lalang II is now all too real

"These arrests appear to go beyond just our reportage about one hudud article," Jahabar said before he was arrested.

"The Malaysian Insider will continue to report without fear or favour despite these arrests. It is business as usual," he added.

Understand the hudud law that got TMI in trouble with the authorities:

Latest issues leading to arrests under the Sedition Act:

For a list of Malaysians who have fallen victim to the sedition dragnet:

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