Nurul Izzah’s arrest makes global headlines

News of Lembah Pantai MP and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar’s arrest yesterday has made headlines around the world.

As at 11 last night, news outlets that featured the story included Asahi Shimbun in Japan, BBC in the United Kingdom, New York Times in the United States, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, The Hindu in India, the Bangkok Post in Thailand and the Manila Times in the Philippines.

International financial papers such as the UK-based Financial Times and the US-based Wall Street Journal too paid attention to the arrest.

The Wall Street Journal said in an Opinion piece: “Malaysian politics are moving down a dark path. A month after the country’s highest court upheld the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges of sodomy, police on Monday arrested Mr Anwar’s daughter for violating the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law increasingly used to chill political debate.

“Creeping authoritarianism won’t slow Umno’s rising unpopularity among young people, urbanites and ethnic minorities […] Nurul Izzah Anwar and Anwar Ibrahim should be released for their own sake and that of a democracy sliding into repression.”

The New York Times headline said,”Daughter of jailed Malaysian opposition leader is arrested”,  reflecting a common theme of the international reports to highlight her filial relationship with her jailed father, Anwar.

Also highlighted in many of the reports were the Malaysian government’s continued use of the Sedition Act 1948, including the possibility that it is being used to stifle political dissent.

Most of the reports came from wire services such as Reuters and the Associated Press, but many of the larger news organisations did feature their own original reporting.

Examples of the latter include the TV channel Al-Jazeera, BBC,  New York Times and Financial Times.

Nurul Izzah, who is also a PKR vice-president, was arrested at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters about 3pm yesterday, when she arrived to give her statement on her involvement in the Kita Lawan rally on March 7.

In a statement last night, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said she was arrested under the Sedition Act to assist police investigations into the rally, and for her speech in Parliament read out on her father’s behalf.

Khalid (right) said Nurul Izzah had made “contemptuous remarks” against the judiciary.

“She will be released once her statement has been recorded,” he said, without indication on when this would be done.

The Kita Lawan rally held in Kuala Lumpur on March 7 drew some 10,000 supporters to the streets to show solidarity with Anwar, who has been jailed for sodomising his former aide.

Anwar has maintained his innocence and claimed that the charges are a political conspiracy.

Following the rally, the police have arrested many of the leaders involved. Nurul Izzah is the ninth person to fall under the dragnet.

Early today,  Human Rights Watch issued a media statement in Malaysia, criticising the arrest of the Lembah Pantai lawmaker.

Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson (left) said: “The arrest of Nurul Izzah shows that the Malaysia government seems to know no bounds in its efforts to stifle free speech and criminalise dialogue that would be a normal part of political discourse in much of the rest of the world.

“Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his government are shamefully using the Sedition Act like an axe to hack down opposition politicians, community activists, and any others who dare speak their minds.

“Prime Minister Najib needs to recognise that every sedition arrest of an opposition political leader is another step towards the destruction of rights-respecting democracy in Malaysia, and bring this campaign of abuse to an end.” – Malaysiakini

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