Ref:  Prof. H. Harry L. Roque Jr.  is President,of  Media Defense Southeast Asia


Malaysia should respect freedom of the press in the standoff in Sabah. This is to avoid misinformation of the type that happened ago two days ago. When shooting erupted in Sabah, Philippine authorities said that there were only 2 casualties, while the sultanate of Sulu claimed that there were 14. Malaysian officials, on the other hand,  claimed that 14 followers of the Sultanate managed to escape.

It s in times of crisis that the freedom of the press should be fully protected. Independent of the issue of who has title over Sabah, both the Malaysian and the Philippine public have a right to know what has been happening in the stand-off. Certainly, the death count, as well as the manner by which the human rights of the supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu are legitimate issues imbued with public interest.

The Philippines and Malaysian authorities have been at a standoff when 200 or so supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu went to Sabah purportedly to claim the island back on behalf of their sultanate. In 1878, the Sultanate of Sulu entered into a contract of “pajak” with Overbeck and Dent, the latter as representatives of the North Borneo Trading Company. Malaysians have construed “pajak” to mean cession. The Philippines claim it is a “lease”. Since 1878, Malaysia authorities have been paying to the sultanate the equivalent of 5000 ringgit annually.

Lord Granville, a Foreign Secretary for Great Britain maintained that the UK did not claim sovereignty over Sabah since the North Borneo Trading Company was not an instrumentality of Great Britain. Furthermore, Mr., Treacher, a British consular official who accompanied Overbeck and Dent to Sulu for the signing of the contract of “pajak” claimed that what was signed was a contract of lease.

Both the Philippines and Malaysia are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Art 19 of the same recognizes the duties of state parties thereto to protect and promote freedom of expression and of the press.

Malaysian state police recently detained an Al Jazeera team, including its Filipina producer, Jam Aindogan, for covering the standoff. Henry Omaga Diaz of Abs-Cbn news and Maki Pulido of GMA-7 were also asked to leave the area and was threatened by Malaysian authorities with arrest.

The Media Defense Southeast Asia is a regional organization of lawyers defending freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. It unequivocally condemns Malaysia’s utter disregard and violation of freedom of the press in Sabah.



  1. aaron a. legaspi says:

    Harry you are in danger yourself for supporting press freedom inside Malaysia coz the Spokesperson of Malaysia (aka -Tuwid Boy) is in favor of hardline approach against the Sultanate Boys.

  2. Angel says:

    I say kudos to Harry Roque for standing firmly in support of the freedom of the press in Malaysia. He is right that regardless of the bitter issues at hand or groups involved, the truth must be properly disseminated.Objective reporting is still necessary for all Filipinos to know the real issues in the current events especially when sovereignty and security of the Philippines is compromised by other Nations. I’ll say thank you and God Bless You Attorney Roque for loving your Country!

  3. sha says:

    I love how you said it..”si Gloria Arroyo” kahit galit na galit ako dyan ..

  4. Atty., I got a lot of insights about this issue yesterday during the radio interview yesterday, sayang nga lalng at kayo po ay mag tatalumpati na na bitin ako hehe thanks for the information.

  5. hi, I am a radio producer from Malaysia. Could I contact you via email to make a request for an interview? +60163814045

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