Rights group calls for probe into reports of harassment against activists, opposition

Suaram programme manager Dobby Chew (centre) handing over a memorandum to Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph.

KUALA LUMPUR: Rights group Suaram today urged the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to open an investigation into reports of police harassment against activists and opposition members, saying freedom of expression and assembly appeared to have worsened under the Perikatan Nasional government.

Suaram programme manager Dobby Chew said the last few months had seen people targeted through various investigations under the Sedition Act, Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), Peaceful Assembly Act and the Penal Code.

He said this after submitting a memorandum for a review of these investigations at the Suhakam headquarters here.

He was accompanied by Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) activist K Sudhagaran Stanley, South China Morning Post reporter Tashny Sukumaran and a representative of the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services.

According to Chew, 41 investigations were carried out between March and early July this year: seven under the Sedition Act, nine under the CMA, 15 under the Peaceful Assembly Act and 10 under other laws.

“Article 10 of the Federal Constitution enshrines the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

“It is incredibly troubling to see that these rights have been infringed on in recent months with the change of government.”

Chew added that some of the probes were based on “unreasonable” grounds which could be perceived as intimidation tactics to prevent criticism of the government.

He cited the police questioning of those who had participated in the virtual Parliament session, Parlimen Digitial, as well as the contempt charges against news portal Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief.

He also spoke of the use of investigations to deter the press from reporting on controversial government policies and to harass opposition politicians such as Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh.

Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph said the commission had agreed to investigate each case listed by Suaram.

“We will call the related individuals for discussions and to assist the investigations,” he said.