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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) along with Bytes for All, Pakistan and Digital Empowerment Foundation, India strongly condemn the harassment of human rights defenders in Malaysia by raiding the office of Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) and confiscating important documents. The unjustified raid on the office of EMPOWER took place on 28 November 2016 when only two staff were in the premises. This is the second organisation to be raided and harassed by authorities in the last week in Malaysia.
During the four hour raid, the police locked up the staff in the office, taped up the windows and refused them any access to lawyers. When enquired, the officials stated that if the staff did not cooperate they would invoke the controversial provisions of SOSMA, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. Notably, this Act was used to imprison Maria Chin Abdullah of Bersih 2.0 (the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) for mobilising against state corruption. Maria was released on 28 November 2016 after ten days of solitary detention without any charge.
“We are deeply concerned with such abusive interference in the legitimate work of organisations like EMPOWER and Bersih. EMPOWER collaborates with APC closely and is an integral part of the movement in the Asian region demanding for justice for all. Such fear against open dialogue should not prevail in a democracy,” warned Anriette Esterhuysen, APCs Executive Director.
“EMPOWER is a key partner working toward securing equality and democracy for all, especially for women and marginalised communities. Their focus on internet rights and the use of social media to empower people is critical in light of the shrinking space for civil society online and offline. They have every right to carry out their work with the support of resources mobilised nationally and internationally,” said Esterhuysen.
APC calls on the government of Malaysia to end all ongoing efforts to threaten civil society and to immediately return all documents they have confiscated from the offices of EMPOWER and return the documents and devices taken from Bersih.
APC is an international network striving to ensure that all people have easy and affordable access to a free and open internet to improve their lives and create a more just world.
EMPOWER is a is a non-governmental organisation that promotes and supports actions that advance justice and democracy, based on feminist and human rights principles. We work with women and youths to realise their potential in the areas of political participation and civil liberties.