Edging out press freedom and truth

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Aliran condemns the Home Ministry’s three-month suspension of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for their reporting of the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) scandal.

At a time when there are more questions than answers available regarding the humongous financial scandal, the Ministry’s action can be construed as a self-serving draconian attempt at shutting up inquisitive Malaysians.

It also appears aimed at chipping away at the fragile press freedom in the country, which is already beleaguered by a political rollercoaster, economic uncertainty, and religious and ethnic unease.

Shutting down these publications would only cast further doubts and aspersions on the character of those implicated in this financial scandal and provide fodder for the rumour mills. People talk, and talk they will with a snigger.

Suspending these publications, although temporarily, would send shivers down the spines of publishers, editors and journalists. This ministerial diktat not only put their careers on the line but also the livelihoods of The Edge support staff.

The implications are far-reaching and clearly meant to send a dire warning to those who dare to report truthfully.

This suspension clearly shows that the archaic and undemocratic Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) fosters an insidious culture of fear and self-censorship within the industry. These two publications are being made an example of for others.

It is insufficient and unconvincing for the Ministry to declare that these publications have acted in a manner that is “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest” without an iota of evidence to justify such claims.

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To convince sceptics, the Ministry needs to build a credible case to show exactly how these publications have created social unrest as a result of their reporting. Unless the Ministry does this, the intelligence of concerned Malaysians will once again be insulted.

Journalists who strive to adhere to their professional calling of pursuing and publishing the truth should be commended and given our support – and not treated as traitors to the country. They have a duty to report on how Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Umno-BN government’s handling of the 1MDB debacle has had a severe economic impact on the nation. This saga has inadvertently revealed the bankruptcy of all the Umno-BN government’s pronouncements of being a moderate and democratic country, of upgrading Malaysia from a middle-income to a high-income nation that practises transparency and accountability, and of aspiring towards a great transformation of the country.

In their response to such reporting, the authorities should not yet again metaphorically ‘kill’ the messenger.

Dr Mustafa K Anuar
Honorary Secretary,
Aliran
25 July 2015

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