Sep 13, 2008

Sin Chew Daily Newspaper reporter released

Sin Chew Daily senior reporter Tan Hoon Cheng was released this afternoon after being held for 16 hours under the ISA and is now back at home in Bukit Mertajam.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities said Saturday that a journalist for a Chinese-language newspaper, whose arrest triggered a furore in the ruling multiracial coalition, has been released.

Tan Hoon Cheng, 32, was one of three figures detained Friday under draconian internal security laws that allow for detention without trial, along with an opposition politician and a prominent blogger.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar denied that the crackdown was aimed at suppressing dissent as the opposition tries to seize power, and said Tan was released on Saturday afternoon after she "cooperated with the police."

"She is not a security threat," he said, adding that one of the reasons she was taken into custody was because "we received reports her life was threatened."

Tan, a reporter for the Sin Chew Daily News in northern Penang state, was thrust into the national spotlight after reporting on an outburst from a ruling party member who called ethnic Chinese "squatters."

The politician was disciplined by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which represents Muslim Malays who dominate the population, and the action against Tan triggered widespread disbelief.

The arrest drew rare condemnation from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second-largest political party in the Barisan Nasional coalition.

"MCA is dismayed, disappointed and shocked with the ISA (Internal Security Act) detention of Tan Hoon Cheng," said Ng Yen Yen, head of the MCA's women's wing.

"ISA now faces improper implementation ... we should respond to the public view to review and even abolish the ISA," she said in a statement.

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