With Raja Permaisuri’s Twitter comeback, lawyers press for release of sedition detainees

Justin Ong

Human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said such a move would be consistent with Tunku Azizah’s action and criticism of the arrests. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Police should free the people they arrested for sedition over alleged remarks about Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah now that she has criticised the action, two prominent lawyers said today.

Human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said such a move would be consistent with Tunku Azizah’s action and criticism of the arrests.

“The Raja Permaisuri Agong herself did not want them arrested, she has reactivated her Twitter account to illustrate this.

“Those arrested should be released quickly,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

This morning, Tunku Azizah resumed her @cheminahsayang account that was deleted on Wednesday in a bid to express her displeasure with the arrests of those accused of insulting her.

The Raja Permaisuri reiterated today that she did not leave the platform because she was angered by comments about her but added that her return was motivated by her displeasure with police action against those accused of insulting her.

Authorities have detained at least four people including Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activist Khalid Mohd Ismath for sedition investigations linked to the closure of her account.

Separately, Lawyers for Liberty director Melissa Sasidaran expressed grave concern over the police’s arrest of people over social media comments.

The activists conceded that while freedom of speech was not absolute, authorities’ response to alleged violations must be in proportion to the remarks made, describing the spate of arrests as breaching the rights accorded to Malaysians by the Federal Constitution.

“While some social media posts may be distasteful or considered offensive, the law should not be misused to prohibit such acts of expression as they do not cause any real harm that is normally prohibited by criminal law,” she said in a statement.

Melissa also said this episode again highlighted the nebulous nature of the Sedition Act with its overly broad and vague wording that allowed virtually any controversy to be deemed seditious.

Without clear definitions of what might be deemed offensive in online posts, she said there was no reasonable way for Malaysians to navigate social media without inadvertently creating content that could be considered seditious.

“Furthermore, comments should not be deemed criminal just because they touch on royalty. 

“It is for this reason that the Sedition Act must be abolished as the law is overly broad and vague where almost anything controversial can be construed as seditious,” Melissa said.

Later, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang said those arrested should be immediately freed as Pakatan Harapan has pledged to repeal the Sedition Act.

He called the arrests “indefensible” and urged law enforcement agencies to familiarise themselves with the PH election manifesto.

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