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Arrest for WhatsApp 'insult' signals growing intolerance for dissent
Published:  Jul 5, 2016 10:32 AM
Updated: 4:33 AM

The arrest of a senior citizen for his posting on a WhatsApp chat group has signalled the current administration's growing intolerance towards dissent and freedom of speech, the Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) said today.

“Continued stifling of contrarian voices will only lead to greater disenchantment and goes against open, civil discussion, which Cenbet promotes,” the NGO said in a statement.

The latest crackdown, the group added, came on the heels of several “highly-questionable” actions taken by the authorities in recent months.

This includes charging activist Bilqis Hijjas for releasing yellow balloons on an event attended by the prime minister, as well as the charging of artist Fahmi Reza, who is known for drawing caricatures of the prime minister as a clown.

“The arrest and subsequent three-day remand against the man who posted a picture onto a WhatsApp group falls into the pattern of the authorities' sliding tolerance towards alternative viewpoints.

“How a picture shared privately with a small group, where the aggrieved is not even a member of, can affect national security is indeed mind-boggling.”

This, added Cenbet, would only convey the impression of pettiness of the country’s national leaders.

The 76-year-old author was first arrested at his home in Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya, last Friday, and brought before the Johor Baru Subordinate Court, which allowed the three-day remand, which is set to end today.

Johor police chief Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd had said that the man was found to have uploaded the image under the name 'Pa Ya' in the WhatsApp group 'Bicara Politik Melayu' (Discussion on Malay politics) and that it was aimed at insulting and offending Malaysians.

Investigations are being conducted under Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which carries a fine of not more than RM50,000 or a maximum one year's jail sentence, or both, upon conviction.

Section 233 deals with improper use of a communications network to make obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive comments with intention to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.