KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA— Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), a human rights and law reform NGO based in Malaysia, has strongly condemned the recent arrest of two high school students for posting a video on social media where they expressed dissatisfaction with their SPM history paper.
In a press statement issued on February 26, LFL argued that the police’s actions were “excessive and arbitrary,” and that the boys should have been dealt with by school authorities and parents.
The statement went on to criticize the use of section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) against the boys, calling it a “bane to freedom of speech.”
LFL argued that Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution protects freedom of expression and that this right should not be limited lightly.
Call for Education Minister to address the matter
The organization also urged Home Minister Saifuddin and Comms Minister Fahmi Fadzil to explain the use of the CMA against schoolchildren and called on the Education Minister to break her silence on the matter.
LFL further argued that the police’s actions would “strike a chill into parents all across the country” if left unaddressed and unrebuked.
The statement concluded by calling for an end to police action in the case and for the matter to be handed over to school authorities.
The boys were arrested by police after a 53-year-old female teacher filed a report about a viral video in which one of the boys expressed dissatisfaction with the SPM history paper and made vulgar comments about the paper maker and Singapore.
The police seized an iPhone 11 during the raid and conducted urine screening tests on both suspects, which were negative.
The case is being investigated under Section 14 of the Minor Offenses Act 1995 and Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998.
Hulu Selangor police chief defends police’s action
However, Supt Suffian Abdullah, Hulu Selangor district police chief, has defended the actions taken by the police, stating that they acted lawfully in placing the two 18-year-old students under remand.
The purpose of the remand, according to Supt Suffian Abdullah, was to conduct thorough investigations under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988.
“We needed to record their statements in detail and fact-check with related parties, including checking the contents of their mobile phones and obtaining a disciplinary report from their school,” explained Suffian Abdullah.
“Having been satisfied with the progress of our investigations, both students were released earlier on police bail,” Suffian Abdullah explained when responding to LFL’s statement.
Suffian Abdullah also stated that the investigation was being conducted professionally and that the case would be referred to the Selangor Deputy Public Prosecutor once the investigation was complete.