2 M'sian teens in TikTok vid arrested for mocking S'pore history exam questions

Malaysia government slammed for obstructing free speech.

Julia Yee | February 27, 2023, 05:02 PM

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Two secondary school students from Hulu Selangor in Malaysia were arrested after mocking their school's history exam paper in a TikTok video.

According to The Straits Times, the 18-year-olds were arrested after a teacher came across their video and filed a police report.

In a statement made by the district police chief Superintendent Suffian Abdullah, the teenagers were “uttering abusive words as they were allegedly dissatisfied” with the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) paper.

SPM is a national exam taken by Form 5 students in Malaysia.

"You think I care about Singapore?"

In the video, one boy ranted about the inclusion of Singapore-related questions in the SPM history paper.

His spiel was accompanied by swearing and offensive gestures.

@utusantvofficial Kedua-dua remaja berusia 18 tahun itu ditahan di rumah mereka. #beritaditiktok #fyp #trendingnewsmalaysia #spm #sejarah ♬ original sound - UtusanTV

He said Singapore's history was irrelevant to Malaysians.

"Singapore’s nothing but a kampung. They’re so poor even their water comes from Malaysia! Why should it be included into the exam?"

The teen also said: “This Singapore! You think I care about Singapore? Even for water, they use Malaysia’s. Suddenly you come up with Singapore."

“And then with nationalism, the Constitution, making me tired reading about it, but it didn’t make it (in the exam).”

Apologised on TikTok

The boys have since posted an apology on TikTok.

The teen featured in the original video reiterated that his words were "spontaneous" and that he "didn't think before [he] spoke."

"We were just expressing our feelings after our experience in the exam hall. My friend here made a mistake. He didn't really think before uploading that video of me.

Regardless, I'm here to apologise to all Malaysians, the Ministry of Education, and the teachers in my school. To the teachers who had set the exam paper, I never intended to insult or judge what you did."

Subjected to home raids and drug tests

After the teen's transgressions were reported, police raided their homes and tested them for drugs.

“A screening test found that both suspects were negative for drugs, in addition to having no previous criminal records,” reported the district police chief.

“The case is being investigated in accordance with Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1995 and Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998.”

The mobile phone used to shoot the video was confiscated by police.

Police received criticism

Malaysia Now reported that the incident happened "amid criticism that the authorities are clamping down on free speech on social media platforms including TikTok".

Following the arrest, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) released a statement condemning the actions of law enforcement.

"We are deeply concerned that the actions of the police in this case will strike a chill in parents all across the country if left unaddressed and unrebuked," the Malaysian human rights and law reform NGO said.

It indicated that a home raid and drug test "would have caused extreme trauma to them and their family".

"And all this over a video where they vented their frustrations on their SPM history paper."

LFL added that the case should be left to the teens' parents rather than the police force: "They were just teenagers who were being childish and who had already apologised for the video that they made, yet they were treated like hardened criminals."

The group also called out Pakatan Harapan (PH) on its hypocrisy.

"Members of the government should be well aware of how disproportionately wide Section 233 is in criminalising speech online, having been on the receiving end of it while they were in the opposition.

The fact that PH now indiscriminately wields the weapon that it once vehemently opposed smacks of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Though freedom of speech is not unfettered, the right is not something to be limited lightly. Criticism on the governments should not be criminalised, and childish vents by teenagers even less so. Are we to subject every teenager to arrest and prosecution for simply ranting online? Is this what we have come to?"

Police defend their arrest

The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) maintained that it had acted within the law, CNA reported.

"The two-day remand order against both students was to have their statements recorded thoroughly and to fact-check with related parties, including (checking) the contents of the mobile phone and to get a disciplinary report from the school.

Having been satisfied with the progress of our investigations, both students were released at 11am today on police bail."

The PDRM said the investigation paper would be completed and referred to Selangor's Deputy Public Prosecutor.

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