KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Police on Friday evening (2 July) raided the office of Freedom Film Network and the home of cartoonist Amin Landak in relation to its investigations on an animated film on police brutality.
Both individuals are being investigated under Section 500 of the Penal Code for defamation, Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for “statements conducing to public mischief”, and Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of network facilities.
The raid took place after Amin and filmmaker Anna Har were questioned at the police headquarters in Bukit Aman over “Chilli Powder & Thinner”, which details allegations of torture and abuse suffered by three Malaysian boys in police custody following their arrest, based on the testimony of one of the teens.
Amin had animated the film while Har organised FreedomFilmFest, an annual human rights documentary film festival where the film was premiered on 12 June.
Rajsurian Pillai, who represents Amin and Har, said that police had stated that they had a warrant to conduct the raids.
The two individuals were questioned in the afternoon around 2.30 pm and left Bukit Aman at 4.10 pm.
Human rights lawyer Latheefa Koya branded the police probe against Har and Amin as “harassment”.
“Lawyers hv cm across this kind of complaint fr arrested clients over & over again. Don’t b defensive, @PDRMsia shld re-look at suspect-handling procedures,” she tweeted.
This probe is harassment. Lawyers hv cm across this kind of complaint fr arrested clients over & over again. Don’t b defensive, @PDRMsia shld re-look at suspect-handling procedures RT @pusatkomas: In solidarity w @freedomfilmfest & @aminlandak Stop intimidating! #ipcmcnow
— Latheefa Koya (@LatheefaKoya) July 2, 2021
Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme said that the silencing of artists and activists such as Amin and Har “contributes to the atmosphere of impunity that fuels police misconduct”.
“Exposing police misconduct is a public service and a service to the police force itself. The media, filmmakers, and independent watchdogs all have a role to play in exposing and addressing the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Malaysia,” he said.
Bugher added that such investigations and raids signal the police’s eagerness to retaliate against individuals amplifying concerns about torture and deaths in custody, which “sends a clear and chilling warning to the public”.
“Expressing an opinion about a matter of public interest is not a crime, unlike the use of torture by police,” he said.
Freedom Film Network said that it is “incredibly disturbing that the police have chosen to investigate artists and activists who raise serious concerns of custodial deaths, torture, abuse and misconduct by the police” instead of choosing to address “the acts of violence and harm that have emerged repeatedly”.
“Why have the authorities chosen to go after the messenger, instead of addressing these urgent messages?” they questioned.
Gombak district police chief Arifai Tarawe, when commenting on 40-year-old cow milk trader A. Ganapathy’s case, previously warned the public against turning the case into a “racial issue” and to only “quote someone with authority” when discussing the matter.
“If you still want to do it, then don’t do it in a way that will make people angry, worried or annoyed … They will be prosecuted by law if they persist,” he told reporters during a press conference on 30 April.
Free Malaysia Today journalist Hakimie Amrie Hisamudin on 17 June tweeted that he was summoned by the police headquarters over his article on the screening of “Chilli Powder and Thinner” at the festival.
I have been called by Bukit Aman today to give a statement over my article published by news portal @fmtoday
relating to a short film by Suaram and FreedomFilmFest that highlights police brutality against those held in custody.
— 𝙷𝚊𝚑 (@hakimieamrie) June 17, 2021
WATCH: “Chilli Powder and Thinner”
The following video contains graphic depictions of torture and abuse. Viewers’ discretion is advised.
Previously, Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman utilised social media to speak up on Ganapathy’s death and the issue of police brutality in a 57-second video clip titled #JusticeforGanapathy.
“If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone of us.
“Push for accountability, transparency, integrity.
“Push for IPCMC.
“#JusticeForGanapathy,” the caption of his Instagram post read.
The former Youth and Sports Minister was subsequently summoned by the police for questioning on 22 May over the video.
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department deputy director (Investigation and Legal) Mohd Azman Ahmad Sapri said that Syed Saddiq’s case was being investigated under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
A petition on Change.org titled “PDRM Gagal, IPCMC Now: End police brutality and misconduct in Malaysia” garnered 32,287 signatures as of 7.34 pm on Friday.
Started by SUARAM, the petition is addressed to the Home Affairs Ministry and its minister, Hamzah Zainudin.
In its recent petition, SUARAM wrote: “How long will Malaysia be haunted by PDRM’s systemic failures – their negligence, unchecked brutality, and misconduct – failures that cost lives, induce national trauma, and enable discrimination?”
“The rakyat has been stepped over, time and time again. No more,” said the NGO.
SUARAM demanded, in addition to the establishment of the IPCMC, the immediate implementation of the following measures:
- Appointing independent external bodies to investigate recent cases of custodial death;
- Setting up health units in all lockups and custodial centres; and
- Carrying out automatic inquests for all cases of death in custody, in line with Section 344 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593).
Stating that PDRM’s integrity is at stake as a result of the custodial deaths, SUARAM said that the people “demands an immediate response from the government” to “address PDRM’s systemic failures”.
“The rakyat cannot trust the institution that claims to serve us if their actions violently say otherwise. #PDRMGagal #IPCMCNow”, said SUARAM.