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Bangladeshi arrested for 'telling truth' about Malaysia's lockdown

Bangladeshi arrested for 'telling truth' about Malaysia's lockdown

Last month, Human Rights Watch, which investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world, accused Bangladesh authorities of using the abusive Digital Security Act (DSA) to harass and indefinitely detain activists, journalists, and others critical of the government and its political leadership.

<strong><a href="https://indianarrative.com/world/is-free-speech-under-threat-in-bangladesh-1849.html">India Narrative had highlighted</a> </strong>the case of Shafiqul Islam Kajol, a Dhaka-based journalist who was "forcibly disappeared" for 53 days and then held in pre-trial detention for nearly two months, far beyond the limits under Bangladesh and international law.

Today, the tables have turned with several Bangladeshis turning up the heat on Malaysia for a similar act of blatant attack on freedom of expression.

The Malaysian authorities have arrested Mohammad Rayhan Kabir, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi man, for criticizing the country's government in a documentary aired by Al Jazeera.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
25 JULAI 2020

IMIGRESEN BERJAYA TANGKAP MD RAYHAN KABIR<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/imigresen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#imigresen</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/jim?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#jim</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/covid19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#covid19</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/penjarakansosial?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#penjarakansosial</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/kitajagakita?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#kitajagakita</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/kitamestimenang?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#kitamestimenang</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/staysafe?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#staysafe</a> <a href="https://t.co/2RMWLWf9Xa">https://t.co/2RMWLWf9Xa</a> <a href="https://t.co/pUh9vbj88m">pic.twitter.com/pUh9vbj88m</a></p>
— Imigresen Malaysia (@imigresenmy) <a href="https://twitter.com/imigresenmy/status/1286811409070743552?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 24, 2020</a></blockquote>
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On July 3, the broadcaster had aired a documentary 'Locked Up in Malaysia's Lockdown' that investigated the arrest, detention and ill-treatment of undocumented migrant workers and refugees, during the outbreak of Covid-19 in Malaysia. The documentary highlighted raids conducted by authorities under the Movement Control Order (MCO), the inhumane conditions of detention as well as the situation of migrant workers who fear arrest. Those detained were found to be kept in cramped facilities, while migrant workers at risk of detention suffered from a severe lack of adequate food. The documentary also highlighted the chilling effect the government crackdown has had on the migrant worker community, who fear for their lives and safety.

<iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zyl_xsdpteI" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>

Kabir, a migrant worker, also featured in the documentary and spoke about the abuses and mistreatment. Immediately after the documentary went on air, the Malaysian authorities launched a detailed investigation, Al Jazeera journalists were questioned on July 10, investigated for sedition, defamation and accused of being in breach of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Not just that, a public campaign was launched against the migrants and refugees who had featured in the documentary. Kabir, who was on the run since then, was finally arrested Friday. His work permit has been revoked and the young Bangladeshi will soon be deported for criticizing the Malaysian government.

"I did not commit any crime. I did not lie. I have only talked about discrimination against the migrants. I want the dignity of migrants and my country ensured. I believe all migrants and Bangladesh will stand with me," he told Bangladesh's leading English daily, The Daily Star, in a Whatsapp message just before his arrest.

Qatari state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera has also issued a statement.

"Al Jazeera finds it disturbing that Bangladeshi migrant worker Mohammad Rayhan Kabir has been arrested for choosing to speak up about some of the experiences of the voiceless and the vulnerable. Rayhan Kabir, who featured in Al Jazeera's 101 East programme 'Locked Up in Malaysia's Lockdown', was subjected to abusive online harassment, hate speech and became the target of a manhunt. Authorities say he will be expelled from Malaysia. Al Jazeera reaffirms its support to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right – without the fear of being criminalized," the statement from the broadcaster said.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">Al Jazeera finds it disturbing that Bangladeshi migrant worker Mohammad Rayhan Kabir has been arrested for choosing to speak up about some of the experiences of the voiceless and the vulnerable. 1/3 <a href="https://t.co/bYXNCk4fwG">pic.twitter.com/bYXNCk4fwG</a></p>
— Al Jazeera PR (@AlJazeera) <a href="https://twitter.com/AlJazeera/status/1286989948336459777?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 25, 2020</a></blockquote>
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Various human rights organizations have been highlighting the increasing attacks on freedom of speech in Malaysia since the Muhyiddin Yassin, the new Prime Minister, took charge earlier this year.

Amnesty International, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had about two weeks ago urged the Malaysian authorities to "immediately put an end" to their increasing attacks on freedom of expression and the media, international non-governmental organizations.

"The questioning of Al Jazeera journalists is the latest example of the use of laws including the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act to limit free speech and press freedom in the country. These laws are incompatible with international human rights law and standards and should be repealed by the legislature. Rather than addressing the concerns raised in the documentary, the government has instead sought to question the reporters involved and pursue migrant workers who spoke with the media outlet," said a joint statement by the three agencies.

On May 21, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) had denounced the crackdowns on migrant workers and journalists in Malaysia.

"I am alarmed by what is happening in Malaysia after the initially positive attitude of the government towards an inclusive response to the pandemic. The current crackdown and hate campaign are severely undermining the effort to fight the pandemic in the country. We urge the Malaysian authorities to refrain from raiding locked-down areas to arrest and detain migrants," said Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants..