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Feb 3, 2008

Arrest and charge of Malaysiakini journalist condemned


THE Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) condemns the arrest of Malaysiakini journalist, Syed Jamal Zahiid, who was charged in court today for obstructing policy duty while covering the gathering organised by the Coalition Against Coalition (Protes) on Saturday, 26 January 2008.

CIJ is deeply concerned that the arrest of the Malaysiakini reporter is targeted against the online media, which is one of the few alternative and independent sources of information in the country. When contacted, editor K. Kabilan said the manner in which police arrested Syed Jamal was unprofessional and uncalled for.

In a video recording of the arrest available on Malaysiakini.com, Syed Jamal was shown being led away by the police near the Ampang Park LRT station, into the police vehicle where seven others were being held. Syed Jamal said one of the officers was heard saying he had been asking too many questions to an officer on the arrests and was asked to identify himself.

“He had identified himself as a journalist and was only asking questions to the police officer about the arrests that were taking place, but the police proceeded to arrest him. We tried to talk to the police as well but to no avail,” Kabilan said, adding that the online media could be a target of the authorities.

Syed Jamal was charged today and released on a RM1,000 bail, together with 34 others who were charged for illegal assembly.

Journalists in Malaysia are continuously exposed to threats and intimidation by people in power as well as individuals and have very little protection legally. This only signals the lack of respect for the work that journalists do and the abuse of power to stifle critical and dissenting views.

Late last year, at least two journalists and a photographer were attacked and intimated while on duty or for the stories they were pursuing.

CIJ calls on the authorities to drop the charges against Syed Jamal and issue an apology to him as well as Malaysiakini.com. We call upon all institutions of power to respect journalists as they have an important role to play in disseminating truthful information to the public.

Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director


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