WHOA Malaysiakini and The Star got raided by the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)! It was apparently over these 2 reports: Malaysiakini’s one here and The Star’s here.
Basically both news outlets were raided by police on 6th November because they reported that an MACC Deputy Public Prosecutor was suddenly transferred out. Long story short, the guy is actually still serving in MACC, just not in the same division… because he was promoted! So the Attorney-General’s Chambers (ACG) were not happy their name got ‘tarnished’ and lodged a defamation police report.
Sounds a bit extreme, but how was the actual police raid!? Got broken doors onot!? We tried to talk to Malaysiakini and The Star journalists who were there, but because the case is ongoing, they can’t actually say anything. However, we managed to contact the lawyer who’s representing Malaysiakini – New Sin Yew, from Bon Advocates.
Here are 8 things we’ve always wanted to know when the police raids an office.
1. How do they make an entrance?
You know in cop shows, how the officers kick down a door and charge in, screaming, “Drop your weapons! Hands where I can see ’em!”…? These raids are NOTHING like that. In fact it’s all very tame.
“They appeared at the doorstep (Malaysiakini office). They don’t give any notice beforehand. They ask for the person in charge and they had a list of what they want.” – Sin Yew, Malaysiakini’s lawyer
There’s really no drama at all from what we gathered. Can people actually stop the cops from coming in? Well, in this case no one tried, however we read that Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) denied the cops and Registrar of Societies (ROS) officers entry because they failed to present a warrant to enter the premises! More about warrants as we go along.
2. What are the things they confiscate?
Can they take ANYTHING they want? Including the mints in the candy bowl on the reception desk? Just kidding. That one’s free for errbodeh.
“Cops can take what they want as long as they have a warrant. Normally they’ll confiscate the computer. In this case, they took 1 CPU and 1 laptop.” – Sin Yew
He was referring to what happened at the Malaysiakini office. As for The Star, cops also rampas 1 computer.
So how long can journalists goyang kaki until they get back their computers?
“Sometimes they keep it up to 1 or 2 years. Normally once they’re done, they would ask you to pick it up.” – Sin Yew
So yep the office have to accept it as good as gone and replace the sets in the meantime.
3. All the stuff they rampas can get back onot!?
Polis can take anything they want from your office – laptop, hand cream, Post-Its etc… As long as they have a warrant. In fact, you can’t fight them because to ‘obstruct justice’ is a crime in itself according to Malaysian law!
“In certain cases, cops need a warrant. Criminal defamation is one of them. There’s an element of criminality there – it’s done with the intention to injure someone’s reputation.” – Sin Yew
Can you imagine if there’s a lot of work done on that computer and when you get it back it’s all gone? Can muntah darah!! We wondered if the cops would delete anything inside, or whether they would download files to keep as evidence. But if it’s as good as gone, then what’s the point, right?
“If there is a criminal charge, they might even keep the computers as evidence for good.” – Sin Yew
OMG. You mean our hand cream is gone forever!?!?!?!? NOooooOOOOO! In fact, in a previous article about getting arrested, Eric Paulsen couldn’t even remember how many new phones he bought already.
“I’ve got a good mind to get a Nokia 3310 or something next time.” – Eric Paulsen, Lawyers4Liberty
4. Do you have time to log out before they rampas your computer?
According to Sin Yew, YES. The cops will allow the person to settle whatever they’re halfway doing lar. It’s not like the yank the computer right off the desk with the wires tercabut and everything. “They can be reasonable. You need to know how to ask them,” Sin Yew told us.
This reminds us of the time CILISOS spoke to Eric Paulsen, Rafizi Ramli, Ho Kay Tat and other journalists and activists about their arrest experience. The police can be quite polite and courteous, but of course that’s a two-way street too. Bottom line is, they’re just doing their jobs and if you don’t berdrama, they won’t berdrama back.
5. How do they access your computer without your password?
On TV and in movies we sometimes see cops working with a team of crack hackers. We wondered if it was the same with the Malaysian police. But Sin Yew told us the real situation not quite as glamour:
“They will force you to give them your password, or if there’s any encryption you have to give it to them. They can do that under the criminal procedure code.” – Sin Yew
A ‘criminal procedure code’ is a framework of laws that applies to a person accused of a crime. Ours covers how to make arrests, searching a place with warrant, public cooperation, etc. So what happens to your poor computer while it’s with them? “They’ll send it to forensics who will do an imaging of the files you have. After that, they’ll do a report of the activities in that computer,” said Sin Yew.
6. Do they go to your home to search for more stuff?
Well now we know they can confiscate stuff from the office…but what about stuff at home? Coz what some of us hardworking, O.T. flers *ahem* do sometimes, is bring work home too. What if there were articles that were written from a computer at home? Or will the cops go looking for supporting evidence from laptops, hard disks, or USBs in someone’s house?
“They can do so if they need to. But in this case (referring to Malaysiakini), they haven’t,” said Sin Yew. Unfortunately, the criminal procedure code would allow cops to search people’s houses, though it may impose one’s privacy. When CILISOS spoke to Eric Paulsen about his arrest for sedition charges, he told us the cops brought him back to his house to search for other electronics. For his second arrest they took his word for it when he said no.
7. What if they find porn?
“That’s not illegal. For private use that’s all legal. But if you are filming it, that’s a different story.” – Sin Yew
But he’s right tho, our Penal Code has laws against distributing porn, not against watching it. It carries a 5-year jail sentence or fines up to RM50,000. Sin Yew strongly suggests people don’t use their office computers for such things though….
But when it comes to investigations, where to cops draw the line between people’s work and personal stuff? No, we’re not talking about cops asking for anyone’s number – like one officer asked an arrestee when they arrested people at the Rumah Api gig. What we meant was, if in the line of investigating, they find something else on the journalist’s personal computer, how? Sin Yew told us the cops have taken personal laptops before in some other cases.
“But they shouldn’t be looking in the first place. They shouldn’t go on a ‘fishing expedition’ – what this means is they shouldn’t look for anything beyond the specific case they’re investigating.” – Sin Yew
In the event cops find anything unlawful in someone’s personal laptop, even though they’re investigating a non-related case, it can be used against the owner in court. What you see in law dramas…evidence getting thrown out because it was obtained unlawfully – there’s no such protection for anyone here.
8. Do they haul in the journalist for questioning?
Sin Yew told us the cops didn’t haul anyone from Malaysiakini to the police station. On the first day (6 Nov), they were there to raid the office. The second time they went back (9 Nov) was to record statements only. “Usually it can take up to 1 hour. They’ll record it down, then let you read your statement before you sign it,” he added.
But as we’ve mentioned in many of our previous articles, you. should. always. call. a. lawyer!
“They allowed the editor to call me (lawyer). But they won’t wait around for the lawyer.” – Sin Yew
So while he drove to Malaysiakini’s office, the cops will go on with their work la. Then he just joined the group halfway through.
So why the polis so rajin to raid?
Based on everything Sin Yew told us, the raid wasn’t actually thaaaat bad. In total, both Malaysiakini and The Star lost 1 laptop, 2 desktops, and 0 door hinges. No one was arrested AND the cops were fairly polite.
Also, organisations get small facts like this wrong ALL the time. Even us. If someone tells us about it, what do we do? Apologise lor. And correct the original article.
So why go to all the trouble of confiscating computers, and searching through reams and reams of data on these two computers just to like fix someone’s reputation? Well, of course we understand how nobody would like to be defamed lah, but all’s good now coz EVERYONE knows the true story of what happened to that transferred guy.
It’s a lil’ something we call the Mafan Factor, which we talked about in a previous article.
So all this time needed to show up in court, and the effort put in research that needs to be done – is time taken away from lawyers and parliamentary reps to be doing things for our country that might be actually useful– passing legislation, or changing policies. That is the Mafan Factor.
Well this is theoretical, so please don’t raid our office also k?
Imagine. No hand cream forever :*(