Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday (May 10) expressed regret over the arrest of a social media activist who allegedly criticised the crown prince of Johor.
“I was informed that authorities have arrested a social media activist,” said Mahathir on Twitter.
“As I have stressed earlier, no leader in Malaysia is free from criticism.”
Saya dimaklumkan bahawa pihak berkuasa telah membuat satu tangkapan terhadap seorang penggiat media sosial malam tadi. Seperti yang pernah saya tekankan sebelum ini, tidak ada mana-mana pemimpin di Malaysia yang bebas dari kritikan. 1/3
— Dr Mahathir Mohamad (@chedetofficial) May 10, 2019
Firdaus Abdillah, the editor of online magazine Neon Berapi, was arrested on Thursday night after allegedly badmouthing Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim in a series of tweets, reported local media.
Dr Mahathir said that people are free to criticise leaders if necessary, and that freedom of speech is important in democracy.
“Except for threats, lies or insults to reigning monarchs, any leader can be criticised without affecting the people’s right to speak,” he added.
“I regret the arrest of the social media activist.”
Firdaus, 36, is being investigated for intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, reported the Malay Mail, citing a statement issued by the Johor police chief.
On Thursday night, Firdaus tweeted that he has been detained in a police station and needed a lawyer. He has since been released on bail.
Aku perlukan lawyer ni
— Firdaus Abdillah Hamzah (@pipiyapong) May 9, 2019
Meanwhile, the Johor crown prince distanced himself from the incident, saying that the palace did not make a police report.
“This has nothing to do with us and please,” he said. “In this holy month, my family and I wish to carry out our duties with the people and (devote ourselves to) prayers.”