Annual Report: Malaysia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Malaysia 2011

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  • In June, the Home Affairs Ministry suspended distribution of Suara Keadilan, the newspaper of the main opposition party, the People's Justice Party (PKR), by refusing to renew the required licence for its publication. In July, the government restricted distribution of another opposition paper, Harakah, run by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
  • The blogger Irwan Abdul Rahman, also known as Hassan Skodeng, was arrested in August after he posted a satire of the chairman of Malaysia's largest utility company challenging an energy-conservation campaign. Irwan Abdul Rahman was released on bail and charged under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 with improper use of the internet by posting false or offensive content with malicious intent. If convicted, he faced up to one year in prison and a fine of 50,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$15,500).
  • The authorities pressured a Chinese-language radio station to sack host Jamaluddin Ibrahim after his programme criticized the government's positive discrimination policy. In August, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission sent a letter to the station, reportedly alleging that the programme threatened national security and compromised race relations.
  • Police arrested political cartoonist Zunar in September before the launch of his book Cartoon-o-phobia and confiscated copies. He was charged under the Sedition Act and faced up to three years in prison. In June, the Home Affairs Ministry banned three of the cartoonist's earlier books and magazines as being "detrimental to public order" under the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984. Under this law, printing and distributing these cartoons were punishable by up to three years' imprisonment or fines of up to 20,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$6,200). Zunar was released on bail.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

  • In January, police raided a private Islamic religious class near Kuala Lumpur, and detained 50 people under the ISA. Most of the detainees were soon released, but the government summarily deported several of the foreign detainees to countries, including Syria, where they faced risk of torture for suspected involvement in political Islamic groups.
  • At a peaceful protest in August marking the ISA's 50th anniversary, police arrested 30 out of an estimated 300 demonstrators in Petaling Jaya town. All those detained were subsequently released. Malaysian law severely restricts public protest and freedom of assembly by banning public gatherings of more than five people without a permit.
  • In July, Mohamad Fadzullah Bin Abdul Razak, a Malaysian national aged 28, was arrested under the ISA upon his return from Thailand. The government alleged that he was involved in an international terrorist network. The authorities gave him a two-year detention order under the ISA, which provides for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Refugees and migrants

The detention of refugees in Malaysia was "systematic", according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which visited in June. In addition to detention for immigration offences, migrant workers commonly faced abusive labour conditions.