KUALA LUMPUR: The chief editor of an independent Malaysian news outlet was questioned by police on Monday (Mar 1) on suspicion of sedition after he criticised the conviction of his website for contempt.
Malaysiakini, which made a name for itself by reporting on the misdeeds of the country’s ruling elite, was found guilty last month over readers’ comments critical of the judiciary and fined US$120,000.
The conviction added to concerns about worsening press freedoms in the Southeast Asian nation since a scandal-plagued coalition came to power last year without an election.
Steven Gan, the editor-in-chief of Malaysiakini, was cleared of contempt, but police have now launched a probe into his alleged sedition over comments he made following the conviction of his news outlet.
He had criticised the verdict as having a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Malaysia.
Gan was questioned at national police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, and maintained his innocence.
“My comments were in response to the court decision,” he was cited as saying by Malaysiakini.
“I did not commit sedition. I did not incite anyone. If at all, I was criticising the decision, not the court.”
Those convicted of sedition in Malaysia face up to three years in jail, and the law is frequently criticised by rights groups as a tool used by authorities to silence dissent.
Opposition lawmaker Charles Santiago was also questioned on Monday on suspicion of sedition after he criticised the court verdict.
“This police investigation is an act of intimidation to silence my voice,” he said in a statement.
Malaysiakini has faced continual attacks since it was founded in 1999, ranging from police raids to criminal prosecutions, and has so far managed to survive every challenge.
Following its conviction, the site launched a fundraising drive and received enough to cover the fine in a few hours.