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Media witchhunt continues: now it’s Tong

Sat 2015-Apr-18 @ MYT 09:00:04 am

• Najib’s administration shows its vindictiveness
• 1MDB being treated as ‘sacred cow’
• Media under attack for doing their job
• Police treating journalists as criminals

A tax investigation has reportedly begun against Tong Kooi Ong, owner of the Edge media group, in what may clearly be regarded as part of a political witchhunt against media criticism and exposure of the government-owned and financially troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The investigation, reported by Malaysiakini yesterday, comes weeks after three editors of Malaysian Insider, its chief executive, and its publisher were arrested under the Sedition Act and held overnight in a police lockup.

Malaysiakini says the Inland Revenue is investigating Tong Kooi Ong

Malaysiakini says the Inland Revenue is investigating Tong Kooi Ong

Their arrests came half a year after Malaysiakini reporter Susan Loone was arrested in Penang, also under the Sedition Act, in what was clearly an act of vindictive harrassment by Umno politicians and the police.

The six are the first media people to face action under the Sedition Act since 1972 when Utusan Malaysia’s editor-in-chief and a subeditor were arrested and put on trial in a “test case” for a headline calling for the abolition of Chinese-medium schools, then considered an inflammatory topic and a so-called “sensitive issue”.

Plain vindictive harrassment

There is no rational basis for the current actions, except that of vindictive harrassment. None of the six have advocated the violent overthrow of the ruling government or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong: an action that would fall under the classical definition of sedition; even the British, who devised the law to protect their monarchy, have thrown it out.

None of the six had written about any topic that could be seen to have inflamed racial or religious tensions. They merely did their jobs as journalists, trying to keep the public informed.

Susan Loone, released after a full day's questioning. [Photo: Kwong Wah]

Susan Loone, released after a full day’s questioning. [Photo: Kwong Wah]

Susan Loone’s report had quoted a politician as saying he had been treated like a criminal, and the Penang police took exception. She and Malaysakini have long been reviled by Umno and their henchmen in Penang for their coverage, as with other online media, of the DAP and its administration of the Penang government.

If her story was wrong, the police and the politician involved could have denied it, and asked Malaysiakini for a retraction.

Lionel Morais, Amin Iskandar and Zulkifli Sulong had collectively published a report about what they were informed was a decision by the Rulers’ Conference which was subsequently denied. Jahabar Sadiq and Ho Kay Tat have executive reponsibilities over the Insider but did not directly handle the Rulers’ Conference story.

How low will Khairy go?

If the story was wrong, the office of the Rulers’ Conference could have denied it and asked for a retraction. But a police report was made instead — and Khairy Jamaluddin of Umno Youth, ambitious beyond his years, was quick to egg on the police. How low can an Oxford grad stoop?

Besides the Rulers’ Conference story, the Insider and the Edge have produced extensive coverage of the finances and management of 1MDB funds, amounting to billions that belong to the people. The company has RM42bn of debts. There are questions about how the money was used and where it went.

These are valid concerns of all the people, and it is the duty of the professional journalist to find out about current events and keep the people informed. That was what all six did.

Insider editors detained in the police lockup

Insider editors detained in the police lockup

For that they were arrested, and the five handcuffed, fingerprinted, thrown into the lockup overnight, and an attempt sought to further remand the Insider trio — sensibly denied by a magistrate who could not see the need to continue to lock up three journalists.

There is no justification for the police action against the six journalists under the Sedition Act. None. There is no justification for the police to clearly want to humiliate the Insider five through arrest and detention.

» SEE: Treating journos like terrorists

Journalism is not a crime, but the Royal Malaysia Police have now made it plain and simple — reporting the news has become a criminal offence. And it appears that Khairy Jamaluddin and other such so-called personalities will do everything they can to instigate the police.

All this is in addition to the police having already beaten up 14 journalists in 2012, for which no one has accepted responsibility and for which no one has been charged.

Police targeted media, says Suhakam

The tax investigation of Tong Kooi Ong, owner of the Edge-Insider group, falls into this pattern of vindictive punitive action. After the 1MDB issue blew up in public, an anonymous blog — like many of Umno’s paid cybertroopers — launched a smear campaign to vilify Tong as having forced down the value of the ringgit through foreign exchange manipulations — against all prevailing views that the collapse of the ringgit has to do with the falling price of crude oil, as well as the weakness of the Malaysian economy.

1MDB has clearly become a sacred cow not to be questioned by anyone, not even journalists, whose professional duty is to question and to inform. Just as clearly the police seem willing to be stooges of the Najib administration in protecting the sacred cow.

A police force of guttersnipes

At the same time, the police, in Susan Loone’s case as with the Bersih 14, appear to have placed themselves and their actions as beyond question, through their willingness to use physical violence and now the Sedition Act supposedly to protect their so-called “image”.

The only image that results from all these actions — notwithstanding the fact that all the six have said that the individual policemen treated them well — is that the Royal Malaysia Police as a whole have no interest in justice or the people’s concerns, but are willing to be a brutal, vindictive, goon squad without qualms about protecting those in power. By these actions the force has become a disgrace to a citizenry yearning for justice, and a disgrace to the “royal” that forms part of their name. Having descended into the gutter, they have taken the word “royal” along with them.

How much lower will they stoop?

Down with IGP Khalid, D5 and PDRM

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