(Bangkok, June 30, 2011) – The Malaysian government should immediately end its crackdown on the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) and release everyone arbitrarily detained for involvement in its activities, Human Rights Watch said today. Police should return all Bersih-related materials confiscated during the past week and cease pursuing spurious criminal charges, including sedition and “waging war against the king,” against peaceful political activists, Human Rights Watch said.
On June 29, 2011, police raided Bersih’s office at the organization Empower, arresting seven people and confiscating computers, office equipment, Bersih literature, posters, and t-shirts. According to the inspector general of police, Tan Sri Ismail Omar, 101 people have been arrested on various charges in the past five days for promoting what he termed an “illegal assembly,” namely Bersih’s planned march in Kuala Lumpur on July 9.
“The Malaysian government’s crackdown on an electoral reform group shows utter disregard both for free expression and for the democratic process,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments that elected Malaysia to a second term on the UN Human Rights Council might feel duped.”
The Malaysian government, instead of responding substantively to Bersih’s eight-point electoral reform program, has begun an apparent campaign to discredit the coalition and to scare off Malaysians who had considered participating in the July 9 march.
A campaign to discredit the BERSIH coalition? How, you may ask.
Answer: The mass media.
With the Bersih 2.0 rally just around the corner, the authorities have launched a media campaign to label the rally as an illegal gathering to the extent that TV stations are required to submit daily reports detailing their news coverage on the rally.
Daily reports detailing their news coverage on the rally!!!
Forget other events that deserve the publicity - the BERSIH rally must be of top priority to be smeared.