ASEAN’s tangled web: Governments flex legal muscles to stifle online dissent

Source: Asian Correspondent

AS the 2016 calendar year draws to a close, analysts and experts are rolling out predictions and looking back at the past 12 months in review – What have we achieved so far? Where will we be at the dawning of 2017?

2016 has witnessed exponential advances in technology: From self-driving vehicles to virtual reality headsets, artificially intelligent voice-controlled butlers and an ambitious plan to colonise Mars, we have seen and heard it all.

The ASEAN economy is chugging along, albeit at a slower rate, but a Focus Economics forecast says dynamics in the region will likely improve next year, after an expected 4.6 percent expansion in 2016.

“They offer important markets with middle-class consumers,” an article in Business Mirror says of emerging economies like Indonesia and Vietnam.

Hand-in-hand with growth is, of course, the demand and need for free flow of information, and the ease at which such information is accessed. As Computer Weekly suggests, the Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly gaining momentum in Southeast Asia. Citing a forecast by Frost and Sullivan, it says IoT spending in the region is expected to grow in value by 35 percent from an estimated US$1.68 billion last year to US$7.53 billion in 2020.

In fact, the region’s Internet economy on the whole is expected to be worth a staggering US$200 billion annually within just 10 years, according to a report released by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Google.

The region of 600 million is also home to highest number of social media users in the world, signalling a marked increase in access to broadband networks and with it, the inevitable shift in news appetites from traditional to new media.

But as evidenced over the year, the proliferation of new media content has stoked government fears of dissent and uprisings by media-savvy youths, and led to the implementation of tougher Internet controls, often on the pretext of maintaining peace and public order.

In fact, despite the region’s high Internet penetration and increased accessibility to web-based resources, almost all of the 10 ASEAN-member countries, with the exception of Burma, have shown either no improvement or a decline in Internet freedom rankings this year. Read more

Suhakam says security laws being used to suppress political dissent

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Suhakam chief Tan Sri Razali Ismail — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Suhakam chief Tan Sri Razali Ismail — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today it is concerned that security laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) is being used for non-terrorism purposes and to suppress political dissent.

In a statement in conjunction with World Human Rights Day, Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail stressed that Malaysians should not arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“In its short lifespan, security laws, in particular the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) has been applied for non-terrorism purposes. For this reason, Suhakam is concerned that preventive detention, terrorism and security laws are being used to suppress freedom of expression and political dissent,” he said.

“Suhakam is particularly concerned that although preventive detention is a rare exception, in practice it may become a rule, and used for purposes other than what it was enacted for,” Razali added.

The government has said that Sosma does not apply to acts of terrorism alone and has a wide definition, and that it may be applicable to anything which disturbs national security and sovereignty. Read more

UN rights experts press for visit to M’sia following Bersih crackdown

Source: Malaysiakini

Four UN special rapporteurs for human rights have asked Malaysia when it intends to accept their long-standing request for a visit to ensure compliance with international standards.

In a statement today condemning the crackdown on local human rights activists and dissenters, particularly Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, the human rights experts reminded the government they had made these requests since 2011.

“Special rapporteurs Maina Kiai and David Kaye recalled their pending requests to visit Malaysia, sent in 2011 and 2013, and 2014 respectively.

“We hope the government will respond positively to these long-standing requests, with a view to ensuring that the state’s legislation and practices comply with international human rights norms and standards”, said the rapporteurs.

They expressed concern particularly over the use of the Security Offences Special Measures Act 2012 (Sosma) as setting a “troubling precedent”.

“Although (Maria) has now been released, the detention of a prominent woman human rights defender under Sosma sets a troubling precedent, by suggesting that democratic participation can be a threat to national security,” they said. Read more

Putrajaya promised not to use Sosma for dissent, lawyers say

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Putrajaya reneged on its pledge never to apply the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or Sosma, against political dissent when it used the law against Bersih 2.0 chief Maria Chin Abdullah, civil liberties lawyers said.

They pointed out that this was even codified in the Act itself, and stressed that the law was meant to address terrorism and violent uprisings rather than peaceful rallies such as the Bersih 5 organised by Maria’s group.

In 2012, the government took pains to convince the public that the preventive detention in Sosma would never be used in the same way as the repealed Internal Security Act that it was meant to replace.

“Section 4(3) of Sosma states that ‘No person shall be arrested and detained under this section purely for his political belief or political activity’,” lawyer New Sin Yew told Malay Mail Online.

“One of the definitions of ‘political belief or political activity’ under Section 4(12) of Sosma is engaging in a lawful activity through ‘the expression of an opinion directed towards any Government in the Federation’.”

“The work and activities of Maria and Bersih are lawful. The courts in the past have held that Bersih is a lawful organisation and the public assemblies held were lawful,” he added. Read more

Suhakam presses Putrajaya to explain pre-rally dragnet

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Protesters sit on the road at Jalan Ampang during the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur November 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Protesters sit on the road at Jalan Ampang during the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur November 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Authorities had no reason to detain over a dozen activists and political leaders before and after the Bersih 5 yesterday, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said today.

In a statement commending Malaysians for exercising their right to assemble, the commission also pointed out that the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur as well as associated events nationwide proceeded peacefully despite police action.

“Suhakam cannot find justification in the arrests of several key assembly organisers,” it said in a statement. Read more

No proof Soros foundation funding anti-government agenda, deputy home minister says

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Billionaire investor George Soros of Soros Fund Management, January 26, 2013. — Reuters pic

Billionaire investor George Soros of Soros Fund Management, January 26, 2013. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 ― The police have not found any evidence to support allegations that American billionaire George Soros was funding Malaysian civil societies to undermine Putrajaya.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the Open Society Foundations (OSF) founded by Soros has been supporting environment-related programmes here for the past decade, The Star Online reported this evening.

“Police have not found any proof to show that OSF or NGOs in Malaysia are using foreign funds to organise activities that threaten the nation’s peace,” Nur Jazlan was quoted saying in Johor Baru.

However, the Pulai MP said the police will continue their investigations, adding that action would be taken against non-governmental organisations found to misuse the funds for political purposes. Read more

Report: Bar Council probed under security law over Soros funding

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 ― Police are investigating the Bar Council for allegedly attempting to undermine parliamentary democracy because it purportedly received a grant from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF) for a research study.

News portal Malaysiakini reported Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying that the Bukit Aman five-member special team that is investigating polls reform group Bersih 2.0 and Malaysiakini under the same law ― Section 124C of the Penal Code ― is also responsible with probing the decision-making body of the Malaysian Bar.

“Once investigations are completed, we will submit our findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for further action,” Khalid was quoted saying. Read more

Justify use of ‘severe’ security law on Malaysiakini, media groups demand

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 ― The police needs to justify the use of a “severe” law to investigate Malaysiakini for allegedly trying to undermine parliamentary democracy by receiving foreign funds, journalist groups have said.

Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) spokesman Radzi Razak said Section 124C of the Penal Code ― which comes with a hefty punishment of a mandatory jail term that can go up to 15 years ― was a severe law that cannot be used without clear justification.

“The issue on Malaysiakini’s funding has been raised for years and this newest allegation was addressed by the operators of the news portal as well.

“The police will have to let the public know why they use this Section as it is a matter of public interest,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday. Read more

Lawyers: Vague law used against Bersih, Malaysiakini as foreign funding not a crime

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 ― The authorities are just using a so-called vague law to investigate electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 and media outlet Malaysiakini as receiving foreign funds by itself is not a crime, lawyers have said.

Lawyer New Sin Yew said there is no law prohibiting anyone from receiving funds from overseas, adding that this is also not barred under Section 124C of the Penal Code which is being used to probe Malaysiakini and Bersih 2.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah.

“If there is no law against receiving funds from overseas, there is nothing for the police to enforce.

“Section 124C is vague and vague laws are prone to abuse. But even with its vague wordings, it does not prohibit receiving foreign funds. The police cannot use 124C as a catch-all and to create an offence when there is none,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday. Read more

Ops Lalang: Malaysia 29 years later — Jahabar Sadiq

Source: Asian Correspondent

BY JAHABAR SADIQ

The mass rally of over 10,000 people organized by Umno Youth shortly before Ops Lalang was launched on Oct 27, 1987. Pic via Twitter.

The mass rally of over 10,000 people organized by Umno Youth shortly before Ops Lalang was launched on Oct 27, 1987. Pic via Twitter.

TWENTY-nine years ago today, Malaysia began a security sweep starting with 19 politicians, activists and intellectuals detained without trial as racial and political tensions rose over an Umno leadership crisis, issues over languages and the use of the word “pendatang” (immigrant) as a slur.

The total number held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) was 106 and three newspapers – English daily The Star, Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh and Malay daily Watan – had their publishing permits suspended.

One of the dailies, Watan, never came back. The other two were never the same again.

The Star’s front page on Oct 28, 1987. Source: @kuasiswa.

The Star’s front page on Oct 28, 1987. Source: @kuasiswa.

But the issues that festered and exploded into the mass detentions continue until today. Read more