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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Umno lawmakers differ over TMI and Edge arrests

Umno lawmaker Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed says using the Sedition Act to arrest five executives and editors from The Edge and The Malaysian Insider was 'a mistake.' – The Malaysian Insider pic, March 31, 2015.Umno lawmaker Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed says using the Sedition Act to arrest five executives and editors from The Edge and The Malaysian Insider was 'a mistake.' – The Malaysian Insider pic, March 31, 2015.

Two Umno lawmakers differed on the arrests of five executives and editors from The Edge and The Malaysian Insider over an article on hudud and the Conference of rulers, with one calling it a "mistake," while another said media freedom did not mean the freedom to "lie".
"To me, it was a mistake. It seems excessive to make the arrests under the Sedition Act.
"Even if it (the article) was wrong, they didn't have to go to the extent of making arrests under the Sedition Act.
"The authorities could have used another law," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
Nur Jazlan, who is also the Public Accounts Committee chairman, was commenting on the arrests of The Edge Publisher Ho Kay Tat, The Malaysian Insider (TMI) chief executive officer Jahabar Sadiq, TMI managing editor Lionel Morais, senior editors Amin Iskandar and Zulkifli Sulong over a March 25 report by the news portal.
In contrast, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz defended the arrests, saying that although he believed in freedom of the press, no one should have the "freedom to lie".
"They are rightly arrested because journalists are not above the law. Yes, I believe in freedom of the press, but it is not a license to freedom to lie," he said, after announcing the 19th Malaysian Tourism Award in Parliament today.
The Padang Rengas MP said because the public relied on the press, the media were expected to write only what is factual and truthful.
"The Rulers Council did not meet and discuss this, and there is no decision at all from the Council to disagree with the tabling of hudud in Kelantan, so obviously what was written is a lie, and I think The Malaysian Insider, being a news media people rely upon, must ensure that their sources must be correct because it may mislead others who believe what's written," he said.
He also defended the use of Sedition Act against critics, saying it was needed for "all Malaysians to respect Malay rulers".
As symbols of unity, the Umno minister said the Malay rulers must be above politics and they should not be dragged into political disputes and debates.
"To protect their stature, we need the Sedition Act because it does not allow any utterances to be made against the Malay rulers for fear that it may cause disrespect amongst Malaysians towards the institution," he said.
Nur Jazlan appears to be the only Umno leader so far to have spoken in defence of media freedom in relation to the arrests of TMI personnel.
Gerakan, Umno's partner in the Barisan Nasional coalition, also criticised the arrests, the party's vice president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau Hoe Chai said in a statement today.
"A formal demand for withdrawal and clarification would suffice if the article was indeed incorrect," he said, adding that the arrests were a disproportionate use of force by the police.
The article said the Conference of Rulers had rejected a plan to amend a federal law that would allow hudud, or the Islamic penal code, 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 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.
Ho and Jahabar were arrested this morning at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters when they presented themselves for questioning.
Morais, Amin Iskandar and Zulkifli were arrested yesterday and held overnight at the police station after the police and Multimedia and Communication Commission of Malaysia (MCMC) personnel went to the TMI newsroom at The Edge Media Group's offices in Mutiara Damansara. TMI is owned by The Edge Media Group.
The police's application to remand the trio was rejected by a Magistrate's Court early today. Ho and Jahabar are, however, still detained and will be held overnight at Dang Wangi.
They are being investigated under Section 4 of the Sedition Act for publishing seditious material and Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998.
If found guilty, they can be fined up to RM5,000 and jailed up to three years or both. Under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, they can be fined up to RM50,000, jailed up to a year or both.

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