KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Sept 2008: Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, who was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Penang last night, was released this afternoon after 16 hours in custody.
She was released from the state police headquarters at about 2.30pm and escorted back to her home.
Tan, 33, was arrested at 8.30pm last night under the ISA. Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Seputeh Member of Parliament Teresa Kok were also arrested under the ISA on the same day.
Raja Petra and Kok are still under detention at the time of publication.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar today claimed Tan was detained “for her own good” as police had received information that her life was under threat.
“She was the first to report it (the remark made by former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail). We have to investigate and get to the bottom of it,” he told a packed press conference at the Federal Police headquarters in Bukit Aman here today.
“She started it and we have to investigate it,” he said, adding that the authorities had also received information that her safety was under threat.
He said Tan cooperated with the police and was released at 2.30pm today.
Tan had reported that Ahmad had made a disparaging remark about the Chinese at a ceramah during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign in Penang in August. Ahmad has maintained that he was quoted out of context and refuse to apologise for the remark.
Raja Petra was detained for allegedly inciting Muslims with a commentary on the article I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim — published in Malaysia Today — which contained sentences that allegedly ridiculed Muslims, and allowed a commentary that allegedly ridiculed Islam and Prophet Muhammad, with reference to the article Not all Arabs are descendants of the Prophet.
DAP Kinrara assemblywoman Kok was detained in Kinrara, Selangor, in connection with her alleged involvement with a petition to lower the volume of Masjid Kinrara’s speakers when announcing the azan (call to prayers). A Malaysiakini report today quoted the head of the mosque committee, Abdul Rahman Nasir, as saying that Kok was never involved in such a petition.
On 11 Sept, theSun reported that Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud has lodged a police report against former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and website pembelamelayu.com, for spreading malicious slander about Kok being involved in the petition.
Syed Hamid defended the three arrests, saying they were to facilitate police investigations and efforts to maintain public order. He said Tan’s detention was not under his order as the minister and that the police had the authority to make arrests to facilitate investigations.
“I can tell you the police need not refer to me. Under Section 73(1) it is under their discretion but they will let me know,” he said.
The move to detain the three under the ISA came under heavy criticism from non-governmental organisations, the legal fraternity, human rights activists and political parties.
Tan’s detention, especially, raised the ire of the National Press Club who, in a statement released today to Bernama, condemned the move.
The NPC said it was concerned and saddened by the detention of Tan over her report on the alleged racist remark last month by Ahmad, then Bukit Bendera Umno division chief. Ahmad was suspended for three years by the Umno Supreme Council for his alleged remark.
The NPC said Tan was merely doing her job in reporting the event for her newspaper.
It also said that if this “arrest” of journalists in the course of carrying out their professional duties becomes a trend by the authorities, it would not augur well for the well-being of journalism in the country in reporting the truth of events in the country.
It would lead to reporters working under the yoke of intimidation in their daily work, the NPC said.
Among the politicians who called for Tan’s release include Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Women, Family and Community Development Minister and MCA Wanita Chief Ng Yen Yen and MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.
“We will not abuse the ISA but at the same time, we will not compromise public order and safety. We will take action against anything that can jeopardise this,” Syed Hamid said.
Asked if he, as the minister, approved the police’s use of the ISA to investigate this case, Syed Hamid said he did not want to interfere with the police’s prerogative.
The large number of reporters who attended the press conference by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar