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Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Raid on Migrants and Refugees, Orang Asli and Covid-19, Freedom of Information in the MCO… Human Rights Round-up (15/05/2020)

  1. Second major raid on the migrants and refugees
15 May 1
(AFP News; Aljazeera)

#MigrantsRights #RefugeeRights

On May 11, there was a second major raid on undocumented migrants in the area around the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market. The Immigration Department has announced that those who have been detained were tested negative

The first raid earlier this month was criticized that it could push vulnerable groups into hiding, preventing them from seeking treatment. 

In response, 83 organizations, including Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) signed an open letter – urging the Prime Minister to address the hate speech against Rohingya refugees following a xenophobic online campaign. 

HRW further commented that the government “pushed off a boat of starving refugees” and then “stood by quietly” for the threatening campaign against the refugees. 

2. The Orang Asli are safe – for now  

15 May 2
(New Naratif)

#OrangAsli

Although often neglected and marginalised by mainstream society, the Orang Asli thrive where forests are intact and undisturbed. 

Unfortunately, deforestation continues unabated. The most recent plan degazettes 97% of the last remaining urban forest – the Kuala Langat Forest Reserve. The plan has shocked environmentalist groups and the 2000 Temuan OA community who live off the forest.

For now, the lockdown due to Covid-19 has slowed down the process. But after this, the Orang Asli would have to mount blockades or fight in court again for their legal right to live and hunt on their ancestral land.

3. Facebook content regulation

15 May 3
(BBC News)

Facebook has announced who will sit on the independent board set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down. Members are a worldwide mix of journalists, judges, digital rights activists and former government advisers.

Dr Bernie Hogan from Oxford Internet Institute, was skeptical, saying Facebook being a corporation, its veneer of governance does not stop with a constitution or human rights, but with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the future.

Contrarily, solicitor Mark Stephens, was optimistic, citing due to the calibre of the board and deep scope of oversight, it would have complete independence.

4. Freedom of information in the MCO

15 May 4
(Free Malaysia Today; Daily Express)

#PressFreedom

Dewan Rakyat Speaker had confirmed that only government media will be allowed to cover the one-day parliamentary sitting on May 18.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) reminded that decisions made in view of Covid-19 must be proportionate and the public has a right to information based on multiple sources.

Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) also said the restriction was unnecessary as members of the press can follow the required SOPs, adding that the live stream was inadequate, as the role of journalists was also to ask additional questions that require prompt answers.

Perak followed suit, allowing only state news agencies Bernama and RTM to cover their one-day state assembly on May 13.

5. Freedom of expression on the internet

DLMAN
(The Star)

#Freedomofexpression #Freedomofspeech

Patrick Teoh’s remand has been extended for 2 days, ending on May 14. Teoh was accused of being uncooperative. He was initially arrested on May 9 for allegedly insulting the Crown Prince of Johor.  

Before the extension, Lawyers for Liberty has criticized the matter, reminding the authorities that it was a mere social media, not a threat or anything amounting to a genuine criminal offence.

Criminal lawyer Goh Cia Yee, referring to the High Court case of Re Syed Mohammad Syed Isa [2001], also said “further investigations” cannot be the sole reason for remand applications.

There need to be further reasons, which may include

  • a risk of the suspect absconding
  • a risk that the suspect may interfere with the course of justice (evidence or witness tampering), or
  • a risk of the suspect committing further offences

None of these exist in Teoh’s case.

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