Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz today defended the arrest of the four The Malaysian Insider ( TMI ) editors and a publisher of The Edge Group.
It was proper, Nazri said, because the news portal, which is part of The Edge group of companies, had lied.
"I think they were rightly arrested to be brought in for questioning because journalists are not above the law.
"I believe in the freedom of the press, but it does not give them a licence to lie," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
The portal had published a report stating that the Conference of Rulers had rejected the implementation of hudud.
This was denied by the keeper of the rulers' seal.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom also told Parliament that the government did not bring hudud matter to the Conference of Rulers.
Stressing that online portals were an important news medium for the people, Nazri said TMI should stick by the facts when reporting and not play up false stories.
"Whatever that is written must have facts. The Conference of Rulers did not meet and discuss. No decision at all on whether they disagreed on the tabling of hudud in Kelantan.
"Obviously, what was written is a lie," the Padang Rengas MP (left) explained.
Nazri also said it was right for the media personnel to be investigated under the Sedition Act as the story was detrimental to the Malay rulers.
"We need the Sedition Act in order for us to get all Malaysians to respect Malay rulers as a symbol of unity in the country.
"And in order to protect their stature we need the Sedition Act," he said.
Nazri also reiterated that the Malay rulers are "above politics" and "should not be dragged into political issues" like hudud which landed TMI in the soup with the authorities.
However, BN colleague and Gerakan vice president Dominic Lau condemned the arrest which he said is "high-handed" even if the portal’s report turned out false.
"The authorities could call on the related editors to present themselves at the police station to facilitate for investigation or questioning, there is no need to conduct a police raid or arrests at the doorstep,” Lau said in a statement.
He also urged police to review with standard operating procedures on raids.
PAS vice president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (right) agreed that arrests under the Sedition Act is overkill and an attempt to spook the media.
This despite PAS vehemently denying TMI ’s report that the Conference of Rulers rejected the hudud.
"Remember, the random use of the Sedition Act to control the rakyat will spur anger and an uprising," Tuan Ibrahim said in a statement.
TMI editors Amin Shah Iskandar, Lionel Morais and Zulkifli Sulong were arrested under the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act in a raid of the portal’s office at Petaling Jaya yesterday.
They are expected to be released Tuesday evening after police failed to secure remand.
TMI editor Jahabar Sadiq and The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat were picked up this morning and will spend the night in the lock up because their remand hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning, their lawyer Syahredzan Johan tweeted.
Four other staff from TMI also gave their statements to the Malaysians Communications and Multimedia Commission over the same article today, the Star reported