Founder of Refuge for the Refugees, Activist Heidy Quah Could Face Jail for Posts About Migrants

May be an image of text that says 'MIGRAN MIGRAN MIGRAN JUGA MANUSIA JUGA MANUSIA JUGA MANUSIA'
source: Facebook

Last year, the #MigranJugaManusia movement divided the country after the boom of an Al-Jazeera expose on the mistreatment of Rohingya migrants in Malaysia.

It was known as a tumultuous time since Covid-19 cases were rising and tensions were reaching its pinnacle. While half of the population were adamant that Malaysians were treating the migrants fairly, the other half was determined to prove otherwise.

Highlighting the plight of Rohingya migrants comes with significant backlash from the public as Heidy Quah, one of the activists that received the most vitriol during that time, discovered.

Activist Heidy Quah to be charged in cybercrime court today | Malaysia | The Vibes
source: The Vibes

Her organisation, Refuge for the Refugees was at the forefront of illustrating the hellish conditions of migrants through several Facebook posts with real anecdotes from the migrants themselves, detailing their abhorrent living conditions at detention centres.

May be an image of one or more people and text that says 'no child belongs in detention 756 children are currently being detained in immigration detention centres around Malaysia, many of whom are asylum seekers #freethechildren'
source: Refuge for the Refugees, Facebook

While Quah’s unflinching support towards the migrants has continued in the form of regular aid and constant updates despite the exacerbating pandemic, it seems like not everyone is pleased by her transparent reporting of real-life tribulations of this community.

Quah disclosed on Facebook that she is to be charged at the Cyber Crimes Court over a posting that revealed conditions at immigration centres in June last year which was when the initial publications of mistreatment of migrants in Malaysia really started to take off.

Charged under the Communications and Multimedia Act for circulating false or offensive content, Quah was questioned for 2 hours at the Putrajaya district police headquarters.

Despite that, she stands by what she has written and shared.

She said, “The sharing on my Facebook was intended to highlight my concerns about the conditions in immigration detention centres and the harm that would be caused by sending more people en masse into immigration detention centres that were known to be overcrowded and unhygienic.

“While this charge has shaken me up, I will go forward with courage tomorrow – I will not be silenced for speaking up.”

Today, she pleaded not guilty in the sessions court.

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She faces one charge under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, with the prosecution contending that she uploaded the post on June 5, 2020 with the intention to insult others.

If found guilty, she faces a maximum RM50,000 fine, or a jail term of less than one year, or both.

The court agreed to a bail of RM2,000 from the initial RM7,000 which Quah’s lawyer, New Sin Yew, opposed.

He said, “To impose (bail of) RM7,000 is excessive. She is the founder of an NGO, Refuge For The Refugees, that has been operating for 10 years.”

The next mention is fixed for 6 September.

Malaysiakini - 'Upsetting and hurtful' - activist on investigation into post on refugee conditions

Unfortunately, this is not Quah’s first encounter with law enforcement over her postings.

Only a month after her posts on migrants, she was questioned by cops and asked to surrender her mobile phone for investigation.

In a recent Facebook post, she stated, “It is unfortunate and frustrating that the government’s energy and resources are spent on investigating me, when it should be spent focusing on the three Ps: the Parliament, the Pandemic and the People.”

Young Asians to watch: Young advocate, Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times
source: The Straits Times

To show your solidarity towards Quah, Amnesty International Malaysia has suggested that you post a message on social media expressing your support with the hashtags #LawanIntimidasi and #MigranJugaManusia.

In addition, we should collectively stop perpetuating attacks against whistleblowers by encouraging investigation towards the problems at hand, not those trying to solve it.

As we’ve seen before, this practice was also implemented in the raid at Freedom Film Fest and investigation of filmmaker Anna Har and cartoonist Amin Landak for their short film Chilli Powder and Thinner which depicts police brutality in Malaysia.

It’s time to stop punishing the messengers.