Four rights groups slam arrest, remand of Patrick Teoh

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Photo: Suanie/Wikipedia

Hakam, Lawyers for Liberty, Maju and Suaram have all issued statements calling for Patrick Teoh’s immediate release

Hakam condemns arrest, three-day remand of Patrick Teoh, calls for immediate release

Hakam condemns the unwarranted arrest and three-day remand of local radio personality and actor Patrick Teoh by the Johor police for alleged insults against Crown Prince Tunku Ismail.

Hakam is of the view that there is no basis to invoke the remand procedure primarily because Patrick Teoh had at all times cooperated with the police.

Hakam wishes to remind the authorities to respect the right of personal liberty of the individual, who has not yet been proven guilty, guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

This is particularly so as Patrick Teoh is 73 and confining him for three days may pose a risk to his health amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hakam is also gravely concerned about the chilling effect of such an arrest and investigation on the freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Hakam reiterates its position that Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is unconstitutional, as it is worded in arbitrary and vague [form] and can be easily abused by authorities to clamp down on any form of dissent in this country.

Hakam therefore calls on the authorities to immediately secure the release of Patrick Teoh from police custody.

Lim Wei Jiet is secretary-general of Hakam

Arrest and remand of Patrick Teoh unnecessary, excessive

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the arrest and remand of Patrick Teoh, a radio personality and actor, in connection with the allegation that he insulted the Johor Crown Prince, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, on social media.

Although the post has since been deleted, Patrick Teoh is accused of resharing a video of the Crown Prince and others dressed in military garb last year, with a comment.

After being summoned for questioning by the police on 9 May, he complied at the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters and was then arrested, had his laptop seized and was brought to Johor for further investigations.

On 10 May, Patrick Teoh was remanded for three days for investigations under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

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Section 233, which governs the “improper use of network facilities or services” is poorly defined, leaving it vague and open to arbitrary interpretations. It has often been abused in the past to silence those who criticise the government or comment on sensitive issues including royalty.

We question why the authorities feel the need to bring Patrick Teoh to Johor and remand him for three days for further investigation, when he was fully cooperating with the police. The remand is clearly unnecessary, excessive and appears to have been intended as pre-trial punishment for the alleged crime.

In the time of Covid-19, this also goes against international guidance which, in the interests of public health, calls for a reduction in the numbers of people held in detention.

This investigation is high-handed and brings the administration of justice into disrepute. The role of the police is to maintain public order and prevent crimes, not to be the arbiter of what is an acceptable speech or post on social media.

The police must be able to differentiate between impolite or even “insulting” remarks that are not criminal in nature. It should only be an offence if the remarks were threatening or inciting violence, and therefore ought to be investigated under the Penal Code.

We therefore urge the authorities not to resort to the use of legislation which criminalises speech and undermines freedom of expression, as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act does.

We remind the authorities that this was a mere social media post commenting on a public personality, not a threat or anything amounting to a genuine criminal offence.

We call upon the police to drop this unnecessary investigation and release Patrick Teoh without delay.

Melissa Sasidaran is director of Lawyers for Liberty

Patrick Teoh’s arrest an unjustifiable curb on his freedom of expression

Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (Maju) is gravely concerned with the recent arrest of Patrick Teoh for allegedly insulting HRH Tengku Mahkota Johor, where he was brought to the Petaling Jaya Commercial Crimes Investigation Department to have his statement recorded and subsequently brought to the Johor Baru Selatan Police Headquarters for remand. He is currently under remand till 12 May 2020.

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Patrick is a well-known and long-time commentator on public interest issues and developments in the nation and, although candid and forthright, has always abided by the laws of the country in his public comments.

He is also a patriot and is currently adviser to Maju. We are confident that the police investigation will conclude that there is no basis for such allegations and look forward to his release immediately.

By no stretch of imagination can the common satirical phrase purportedly used by Patrick Teoh in his posting on his personal Facebook page be interpreted as a rude taunt.

It should be further noted that Patrick Teoh is an elderly person who is not in the best of health, and as such all medical safety measures and attention should be accorded to him whilst he is under remand and at all material times.

Maju respectfully calls on HRH Tengku Mahkota Johor to disassociate himself from such an insignificant complaint and implore for Patrick Teoh’s immediate release.

In such unprecedented and trying times faced by Malaysia under the movement control order, the government of the day must resist taking advantage of the circumstances and show wisdom in protecting the constitutional rights of Malaysian citizens in the exercise of their freedom of expression.

This brings to mind the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

This unjustifiable and unnecessary investigation on Patrick Teoh under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 must be halted if we wish to declare meaningfully that we live in a democratic society and that Malaysians must have the democratic space to express themselves.

Maju continues to emphasise that human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments must be adhered to.

The oppressive provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 must be repealed.

Let’s Maju together for Malaysia

Siti Zabedah Kasim is founder of Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity

Communication and Multimedia Act arrest by Johor contingent excessive

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is concerned with the arrest and detention of Patrick Teoh under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 by the Johor police contingent for allegedly insulting Johor’s crown prince.

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Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 was not designed to criminalise online commentary, neither is it a criminal offence for anyone to post uncouth or offensive remarks online so long it does not threaten the safety and wellbeing of another person.

The arrest and remand of any individual under Section 233 for allegedly insulting the royal institution is an abuse of the law as any investigation for such offence can be done remotely without the need for prolonged remand.

The Johor police contingent was notorious for abusing Section 233 in recent years with mass arrests made for comments made on football and a trend of requesting extensive remand period for a ‘crime’ that does not require the detention of the alleged perpetrator.

Despite the change in leadership, the Johor police contingent seems to be keen to continue the absurd trend where limited police resources are wasted on arresting and detaining individuals for online commentaries that do not threaten the safety and wellbeing of others.

In Zaid Ibrahim’s case under Section 233, where he allegedly insulted Najib Razak, the Sessions Court ruled that the prosecution must call on the victim and have the victim testify that they were affected by the accused’s statement.

In this context, perhaps the Johor police contingent should verify the supposed victim of this case was genuinely affected by an offhand remark by a random individual online before expending limited police resources to arrest and detain a person for alleged offensive comments online during a pandemic.

Suaram calls for the immediate release of Patrick Teoh and all other individuals detained for such offences and for the government to immediately review and restrict the flawed application of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act by the police.

Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram

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