[PRESS STATEMENT] Stop Harassing #Lawan Protest Organizers, Participants

Picture from Benar News

We, as civil society organizations with a common interest in promoting freedom of assembly, stand in solidarity with the Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR) and activists who are facing arrests and intimidation. We will offer support as observers at the #Lawan protest.

The magnitude of intimidation and harassment faced by activists of #Lawan protest and the SSR at the hands of the authorities, especially the police, is appalling and must cease immediately.

The organizers and participants of the #Lawan fight have been subjected to consistent intimidation and harassment since July 25 following their actions in Dataran Merdeka on July 17 and a convoy on July 24. This includes the following:

  • July 25 – 13 activists were called in for investigations at various district police stations, including at Brickfields district police headquarters (IPD), Sepang IPD and Malacca Tengah IPD.
  • July 26 – 10 activists and protesters were called in for investigations at various district police stations, including at Brickfields IPD, Dang Wangi IPD, and Kajang IPD.
  • July 27 – three activists, namely Wan Shakila, Nu’man Shaharman and Umar Azmi, who were called the day before, were called again to the Brickfields IPD for investigations.
  • July 28 – one activist was arrested and released on police bail and another two were called in for their second investigation.
  • July 29 – the co-founder of MISI Solidariti, Sarah Irdina Mohammad Ariff, was arrested under the Sedition Act 1948 and her home raided. She was held at the Jinjang police station and was released at 12.30am on July 30.
  • July 29 – three activists – Muhammad Alshatri, Tharma Pillai and Afiq Adib – were called to the Dang Wangi police headquarters and investigated regarding a protest that is planned on July 31 and social media postings calling for the resignation of the prime minister, the reconvening of Parliament and the ending of the emergency.

Such disproportionate responses to a peaceful and organized protest are unnecessary and infringe upon their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and association. The organizers have shown thorough consideration for the safety of the people in Malaysia and took deliberate measures to comply with the SOPs and have been absolutely cooperative with the police ever since.

We would like to remind the government and the police of the repeated calls by various organizations to repeal Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Sedition Act 1948 due to their draconian and broad provisions that no longer fit a progressive, democratic nation. Applying these repressive laws only reeks of abuse, intimidation, and an attempt to silence youth activism.

The calls made by activists of #Lawan protest are far from being harmful to the people and are within their democratic and constitutional rights as people of this country.

We, therefore, call upon the inspector-general of police to withdraw all investigations and charges and stop all arrests and harassment with immediate effect.

Instead, take proactive initiatives to support the right to freedom of assembly and facilitate the protest, and offer protection. We would also like to remind the IGP that the police force is supposed to remain independent in carrying out its service to the people. The police’s actions, responses, and activities must be guided by international human rights standards to avoid any detrimental effect on the people’s fundamental rights and liberties.

In the interest of freedom of expression and fundamental liberties, and considering the series of intimidation and harassment that we have been observing so far, a team of civil society members will act as observers at the protest to provide support and to monitor any possible human rights violations.

We see this as a necessary step to ensure the right to protest peacefully even in a time of crisis remains protected. We will take all precautionary measures to ensure we perform our roles as observers with minimum risks to protesters and members of the public.

Signed off by the following civil society organizations:

  1. Centre for Independent Journalism
  2. KRYSS Network
  3. Amnesty International Malaysia
  4. Justice for Sisters
  5. Sisters in Islam
  6. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  7. Freedom Film Network (FFN)

Full endorsement list here.

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