Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Franois Julliard wrote today (17 February 2009) to Tuanku Misan Zainal Abidin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Al Mukhtafi Billah Shah, the king of Malaysia, asking him to intercede in the case of “RPK”.
Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would like to draw your attention to the case of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, a journalist also known as “RPK,” who is charged under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in connection with articles posted on his Malaysia Today blog (http://mt.m2day.org/2008/) and who now faces the possibility of being imprisoned again.
In the speech you gave today, you described the younger generation as Malaysia’s hope and future. RPK is a model of the free speech this generation should enjoy.
The way the federal court in Putrajaya is conducting RPK’s case is travesty of justice. The court’s impartiality is jeopardised by the fact that Augustine Paul, one of the three judges on the panel handling the case, issued a ruling against RPK in 2001 as a “threat to internal security.” RPK had posted comments online that lambasted the judge for his role in Anwar Ibrahim’s corruption trial -comments that were widely circulated on the internet.
The decision by judges Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin to reject a request by RPK’s lawyers to recuse judge Paul seems to be unconstitutional. Paul chose not to remain in court to hear the application for his recusal, leaving the other two judges. However, the law requires that such an application by heard by three federal judges.
Since the start of this case, the police and government officials have acted outside the law as established by the constitution. RPK was jailed under the only section of the ISA that allows the authorities to imprison a person without giving their reasons. And the charges brought against him violated some of his basic rights, including individual freedom (article 5.1), freedom of expression (article 10.1) and freedom of religion (article 11).
Malaysia has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so such violations of freedom cannot continue. This situation threatens the rule of law in Malaysia and offers an extremely negative image of your country internationally. In the current context, it seems clear that this is a political manoeuvre to silence RPK and put pressure on Malaysia’s civil society leaders.
We believe that it is your role, as your country’s monarch, to defend your people and ensure respect for their basic rights, while remaining completely neutral and independent of any political party, as required by the constitution. This is why we are seeking your help and why we ask you to ensure the withdrawal of the appeal against RPK’s release and to prevent any other attempt to detain him under the ISA.
These proceedings are a challenge which Malaysia should take care to meet. A new hearing has been set for 23 February. We urge you, Your Majesty, to do everything in your power to prevent any further judicial errors.
We trust you will give our request your careful consideration.