Human Rights Defenders speaking out against the Malaysian Government

28 July 2016, 11:49 UTC | Malaysia

Khalid Ismath: Charged for commenting on facebook

© Private

Khalid Ismath is a 25 year old student activist responsible for creating the first speakers’ corner at Mara University of Technology, he also took part in the Occupy Dataran movement calling for free education and the abolition of the National Higher Education Fund.

He has been charged in connection with the publication of a series of Facebook posts that were deemed offensive to the royal family of the State of Johor and the Royal Malaysian Police. The posts were about their abuse of power and were published on a solidarity page for Kamal Hisham Jaafar, a former legal adviser to the Johor Royal family who is currently detained on allegations of corruption.

Khalid was first detained on 7 October at the Johor Baru Selatan police station under the 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act for posts on Kamal Hisham Jaafar’s Facebook solidarity page. Following two days in police detention, during which time his phone and personal computer were confiscated, Khalid was released on 9 October.

He was rearrested the same day under the Sedition Act for another Facebook comment made on the same solidarity page for Kamal Hisham Jaafar. He was detained for another four days before being formally charged on 13 October.

He was finally released on bail on 29 October following 23 days of detention.

N Surendran: Charged for doing his job

N. Surendran is a lawyer and a Member of Parliament who was arrested in August 2014 and charged with two counts under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act.

Surendran’s statements were made in the course of carrying out his duties as the lawyer for the de-facto leader of the opposition party and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim.

Surendran’s first charge related to a press statement he released on 18 April 2014 which criticised the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, calling it “flawed, defensive and insupportable.”

His second charge was for criticising the ruling of the court again, this time in a YouTube video on 8 August 2014 at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, in the capacity of defending his client. Though Surendran’s lawyer argued that he has committed no offence under the Sedition Act, in April 2015 the High Court of Kuala Lumpur rejected the challenge.

On 24 June 2016, the same court disappointingly found the Sedition Act to be constitutional and the sedition charges remain valid. Surendran is currently appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.

Susan Loone: Arrested for a news story

“My reporter friends get a bit fearful that they will suffer the same thing”

Susan Loone, journalist,

Susan Loone was the first journalist to be arrested under the Sedition Act.

She was arrested in September 2014 over an interview she conducted with Penang State Executive Councillor Phee Boone Poh while he was in police custody after he took part in and independence day parade on 31 August that year.

Loone’s report for the online news site ‘Malaysiakini’ described how Phee Boone Poh had been questioned for  hours and ‘treated like a criminal’. The interview led to right-wing pressure group ‘Perkasa’ and 13 other NGOs lodging complaints against Loone for ‘defaming the police’.

Susan Loone was held and questioned for almost nine hours. Eventually she was released on bail but she has yet to be cleared of the charges.

Since then, many other journalists have been charged with sedition, Malaysiakini has been refused a print publishing permit by the Home Ministry and Susan believes other journalists are now censoring themselves as a result of her arrest.

Eric Paulsen: Charged for a tweet

“The Sedition Act creates an extremely harmful, chilling effect whereby opposition, dissidents and activists don't know when and where they can be arrested and charged for sedition. There’s no limitation. They could pick you up. You could be prosecuted for something you said months or years ago”

Eric Paulson

On 12 January 2015, human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen posted a tweet criticising the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) for ‘promoting extremism’.

Paulsen is a leading human rights lawyer and executive director and co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty. He actively campaigns for the abolition of the Sedition Act and provides legal representation for many people who have been accused of sedition.

Following the tweet, Paulsen received death threats and accusations through social media, and phone calls claiming he had insulted Islam. However Paulsen stressed  “I have never referred to the religion of Islam in my tweet, I only criticised Jakim as an agency under the Prime Minister’s department”. He was charged with sedition on 5 February 2015.

Just a month later, Eric was again arrested for tweeting,  this time regarding the passing of an amendment to Kelantan state legislature promoting the use of corporal and capital punishment under Sharia Law.

Zulkiflee Anwar ‘Zunar’ Ulhaque: charged for tweeting

© Amnesty International

“Neutrality is a form of escapism. Staying silent is not an option. Even my pen has a stand”


Zunar is a well known political cartoonist who uses his art to make comment on current events.  He has used his cartoons to expose corruption and the abuse of power.

Since 2009, Zunar’s cartoon books have been confiscated otr banned from sale , his office and printers have been raided and his assistants have been harassed.

He is now facing a record nine sedition charges, one for each tweet he made following a Federal Court ruling on 10 Feb 2015, which upheld the conviction and five year prison sentence of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy.

Following the court judgement on Anwar Ibrahim, the INspector General of Police took to twitter himself to warn that action would be taken if anyone criticised the judiciary over the ruling.

Zunar wasn’t the only person to make comment on social media and several other people affiliated to the political opposition have also been charged under the Sedition Act for comments they made following the judgement.

Zunar was charged in April 2015 and his trial is ongoing. If convicted he will face a long prison sentence just for exercising his right to freedom of expression

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