Said Zahari, Singaporean journalist and political prisoner, Died at 88

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Said Zahari was born on May 18, 1928, and died on April 12, 2016.

He was a one-time editor-in-chief of the Malay-language newspaper Utusan Melayu and an advocate of unbiased press freedom.

Although he resided in Malaysia with his family, he has insisted on retaining his Singapore citizenship.

He was born in Singapore to Javanese parents.

Said led a journalists’ strike against the takeover of the newspaper by United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Some allegations against him included being a “Communist”.

Zahari was the holder of a the distinction of being the second longest-serving political detainee in Singapore after Chia Thye Poh.

Zahari was arrested during Operation Coldstore, a joint Malaysian and Singaporean operation to silence 117 opposition and union leaders under the Internal Security Act.

At the time, a documentary made by film-maker Martyn See about his 17 years as a political prisoner in Singapore was banned by the Board of Film Censors under the Films Act, which prohibit its possession and distribution.

On the documentary, Zahari describes the events that follows his election as chairman of Parti Rakyat Singapura on the night before Operation Coldstore.

Zahari details his subsequent detention where he was kept in solitary confinement for a long period in poor condition and explicitly threatened with death if he did not choose to confess his alleged crimes and cooperate with the authority.

During some part of the film shows Zahari conversing with the interviewer in fluent Mandarin, which he was taught during his forced detention without trial by fellow Chinese educated detainees, who were in the majority.

Whilst in a Singapore government media release highlighting the ban, it was stated that the documentary in question, “gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Said Zahari’s arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act in 1963.

Said Zahari passed away at 88 yrs old.

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