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COMMENT | Holding power to account on custodial deaths

COMMENT | Last week, the police started investigating the Freedom Film Network (FFN), its co-founder Anna Har, and cartoonist Amin Landak over the premiere of a short film in mid-June as part of the Freedom Film Festival.

The film, titled Chilli powder and Thinner, portrays an animated recollection of a person’s dark experience while being held under police custody.

Just this week, police have also started investigating activists from Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Misi Solidariti, two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), in relation to this film. The story from the film was based on a case that was handled by Suaram.

The purpose of the film was to highlight the growing problem of police custodial deaths in Malaysia that has seen a sudden surge in the last few months with five new cases.

In many mature democracies, the media (and NGOs or social movements) need to be given affordances to engage in issues of the public interest. The issue of custodial deaths in Malaysia has become alarming in recent months, with some cases happening days apart.

Numerous NGOs such as Suaram and Amnesty International have been monitoring the situation and have produced several reports to highlight that these deaths are often under suspicious circumstances under the watch of authorities...

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