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Muzzling media: Malaysia's ruling, opposition coalitions come under fire

Publication Date : 18-05-2012

 

Both the ruling coalition and opposition alliance of Malaysia have come under fire from the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) for continuing to muzzle the media.

The centre, in its 2011 report on freedom of expression, said despite many pledged reforms, the Barisan Nasional government continued to exert control over the media and freedom of expression.

It said the federal government still seems unprepared to fully relinquish its power in relation to the matter.

The report, however, noted that there was no guarantee that the opposition in the federal level - Pakatan Rakyat - would repeal all press laws that have been deemed repressive and unshackle the media should it come to power.

The report also noted that although Pakatan has introduced the state freedom of information laws (FOI), it lagged behind international best practices despite the input of civil society and lobbying by civil society groups.

“In Kelantan, which PAS has governed for two decades, together with Kedah, there has been no progress in enacting FOI legislation.

“This suggests that there is no guarantee that if Pakatan comes into power, citizens will see drastic improvements in guaranteed civil liberties such as press freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of information,” it said.

However, the report said overall, Pakatan lawmakers and states had a better understanding of civil liberties compared to the Federal Government.

It also highlighted certain policies and practices made by Pakatan which seem to obstruct media freedom, including the case of Selangor Times, the state's newspaper.

“The Mentri Besar's political and press secretaries have been named advisers to the paper and vet the paper and its content before it goes to print,” it said.

It added that Pakatan had, at times, banned the media from their events while Utusan Malaysia reporters were banned from covering Penang and Kelantan state assembly proceedings.

“Some of the rhetoric applied by Pakatan politicians when calling for Utusan Malaysia's ban is similar to the tactics applied by the current government. It also demonstrated a worrying sensitivity to criticism,” said the report.

Meanwhile, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus centre for the study of communications and culture research director Professor Zaharom Nain said civil society had to be vigilant and press for repressive laws to be repealed.

 

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