It was reported on 7 November 2020 that a student activist, Wong Yan Ke, from the University of Malaya was arrested while making a recording of a police raid. According to media reports, the raid was conducted in relation to an alleged sedition and the offence of misuse of network facilities by other individuals. The police had apparently issued a warning to Wong, and after the warning was ignored, Wong was arrested for obstructing the duties of public servants under section 186 of the Penal Code, and his mobile phone was confiscated.1, 2
The Malaysian Bar is concerned by the events that transpired. We take the stance that there is no offence in recording the police conducting a raid. As long as the police officers are carrying out their duties in accordance with the law, there is no cause for concern for them to prevent the recording. Body cameras and dashboard cameras are used by law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions such as the United States and United Kingdom, among others, as a means to record their interactions with the public during their course of duty, in order to prevent misconduct by the police. Even in Malaysia, the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Abdul Hamid Bador, had commented on 19 September 2019 that the use of body cameras on law enforcement officers will prevent abuse and ensure transparency in the police force.3
The Malaysian Bar views that a video recording of a raid or an arrest without any overt act that invokes violence, cannot and should not, be construed as an aggressive or menacing action that would give rise to an offence under section 186 of the Penal Code. While we understand that each case should be judged by its facts and its merits, nothing in the reporting suggests that Wong’s actions invoked violence that could be deemed to be obstructive to the duties of the police officers during the time of the raid. In light of the reported facts, we urge for Wong’s release without seeking any need for his remand.
The police are pivotal in improving safety and increasing public confidence. The Malaysian Bar urges the police to exercise their statutory discretion proportionately and reasonably in any and all given situations.
8 November 2020
1 “Man arrested for ignoring police warning in recording raid in UM Youth association investigation”, The Star, 7 November 2020.
2 “Student activist held after making video of police raid”, The Star, 7 November 2020.
3 “IGP: Body cams will ensure transparency, prevent abuse of duties”, The Star, 20 September 2019.