Tashny Sukumaran is a correspondent for Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post.
(Supplied: Tashny Sukumaran)
Sukumaran says she is being investigated under section 504 of Malaysia’s penal code, which allows for up to two years’ prison for “whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause [them] to break the public peace”.
Malaysia’s Communications Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he had asked the country’s media regulator not to “act” against Sukumaran.
“I may not like [yo]ur piece but I will defend [yo]ur right to write it,” he wrote on Twitter.
Authorities rounded up more than 700 migrants, including children, last Friday amid rising public anger at foreigners during Malaysia’s coronavirus outbreak — a move slammed by rights groups.
Amnesty International Malaysia called the arrests “an appalling violation of human rights and the persecution of an already marginalised community”, adding it was a “clear abuse of power”.
“Mass arrests being carried out in the middle of a pandemic are terrible enough, but reports of detainees being cramped into small vans, not provided masks, unable to practise social distancing is equally alarming,” Amnesty head Preethi Bhardwaj said in a statement.
Fragile freedom of the press in Malaysia
The investigation into Sukumaran’s work was confirmed on Sunday, which was World Press Freedom Day.
Mr Saifuddin released a statement declaring the Malaysian Government’s “clear commitment to press freedom”.
“In the era of 21st-century technology, the media not only play a role in disseminating transparent information, but also protecting the public from spreading false information that could threaten the stability and harmony of the country.”
Sweeping arrests followed public anger against foreigners, particularly Rohingya refugees.
(Reuters: Lim Huey Teng)
Malaysia saw a marked improvement in its ranking on this year’s World Press Freedom Index, jumping 22 spots to 101, after a historic
election in May 2018 saw the first change of government in six decades.
Watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders has reported “the general environment for journalists is much more relaxed, self-censorship has declined dramatically and the print media are now offering a fuller and more balanced range of viewpoints”.