Aliran condemns the Home Ministry’s indefinite suspension of the English-language news weekly, apparently over a front-page article about the allegedly spendthrift habits of the PM and his wife.
Aliran condemns categorically the indefinite suspension of news weekly The Heat by the Home Ministry, apparently over a recent November front-page article highlighting the allegedly spendthrift habits of Prime Minister Najib Razak and wife Rosmah Mansor.
This action clearly goes against the principle of freedom of expression. The concerns of the rakyat about the antics and policy decisions of their leaders should come under close public scrutiny via the media and, in this case, through The Heat.
Indeed, making leaders, whether from the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, accountable for their actions is part and parcel of democracy. Responsible media have a social role to play in this resgard.
That is why concerned Malaysians would have expected Najib, or his representative in the Cabinet, to respond to such criticism in a democratic and civilised manner through the news weekly itself – and not by resorting to sledgehammer tactics.
The suspension of The Heat shows that the recent amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act, supposedly aimed at liberalising the Malaysian press, have come to naught. If anything, this suspension, the reason for which has not yet been specified, makes a mockery of the much touted amendments or repeals of laws supposedly to promote democratic ‘transformation’.
This episode also suggests that the Home Minister still has the political clout to intimidate the mainstream press to the point that newspapers would eventually practise self-censorship and consequently be less accountable to their readers.
Aliran urges the federal government to lift the suspension of The Heat immediately. Otherwise, our political leaders should leave the kitchen if they can’t take the heat.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar
20 December 2013