Second suspect in alleged cyberbullying death of Malaysian influencer Rajeswary “Esha” Appahu arrested

SINGAPORE: A second suspect in the alleged cyberbullying case involving the death of a social media influencer in Malaysia has been arrested and detained, according to local media. 

The New Straits Times reported that a man in his forties was apprehended in Setapak – near the northeastern part of Kuala Lumpur – at about 6.30pm on Jul 10. He was then taken into custody by Sentul police. 

“Yes, he has been detained and will be produced in court in the morning for a remand application,” said Sentul police chief Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Sukarno Mohd Zahari, as quoted by the New Straits Times. 

Earlier that day, police had issued a two-day remand extension for a 35-year-old woman who was the first suspect linked to the death of Ms Rajeswary Appahu, 30, who allegedly took her own life following bullying online.

Ms Rajeswary, who was known as social media persona Esha on TikTok for spreading positivity and beauty content, was found dead in her home on Jul 5. 

The day before, Ms Rajeswary – who is also a Hindu rights activist – had filed a police report at Dang Wangi police station on death and sexual assault threats she had received online. 

According to local media, Ms Rajeswary received not just violent abuse on TikTok, but was also harassed in a “live session”, which allows real-time interaction between viewers and creators on the social media platform.

Local media reported that Mr Sukarno said he had also received a report in the afternoon of Jul 6 by a 39-year-old man regarding threats received by Ms Rajeswary on TikTok.

“(The man) saw two posts through TikTok from the ‘Dulal Brothers’ account and the TikTok account of ‘Alphaquinnsha’ regarding slander and threats against (Ms) Rajeswary,” said Mr Sukarno, as quoted in local media. 

“Dulal Brothers” is the name of the account linked to the second suspect, according to the New Straits Times. 

In the days following Ms Rajeswary’s death, a Malaysian woman, who is also a social media influencer, was detained and remanded for three days to assist the probe.

When asked about the second suspect Ms Rajeswary allegedly mentioned in her police report, Mr Sukarno mentioned then that the search was ongoing.

“We are still tracking down the second suspect, whom we believe has gone into hiding,” he said at the time, as quoted in the New Straits Times. 

According to local media, police recorded statements from at least nine people, including Ms Rajeswary’s family members, on the case.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil also said that two journalists had claimed that they were threatened by the same cyber bullies who had harassed Ms Rajeswary.

Quoted by the New Straits Times, Mr Fahmi said the journalists told him that the cyber bullies had attempted to intimidate them by taking pictures of their homes and family members.

Ms Rajeswary’s case sparked outrage across the country and response from its ministers, and put the wider issue of cyberbullying in Malaysia in the spotlight.

Mr Fahmi warned that such negative “culture” should not take root in the country, and said that the issue of cyberbullying on social media platforms will be presented to the Cabinet on Jul 12.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Ms Rajeswary’s funeral on Sunday, Mr Fadzil also said that he had spoken to the woman’s family about the online pressures they said had driven her to take her own life. 

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recorded 3,199 complaints related to cyberbullying in 2023.

Currently, there are no specific acts or regulations on cyberbullying in Malaysia.

According to the Ministry of Communications website, the government announced it would be drafting laws specifically on cyberbullying to combat the growing problem in August last year.

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