Stop the assault on media freedom

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Police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) officials recently raided The Malaysian Insider office and arrested three editors, the chief executive and the publisher - Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

Aliran calls on the government to release The Malaysian Insider CEO Jahabar Sadiq and The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat immediately.

The two are implicated in the news portal’s reporting about the alleged Council of Rulers’ response to the Pas hudud initiative recently.

Their initial detention let alone any further remand is patently unnecessary. A interview and a voluntary police statement would have sufficed. Detaining them is tantamount to metaphorically killing a fly with a sledgehammer.

Any journalistic error should have been be dealt with in a civilised manner – and not in a way that could be construed as an affront to press freedom. This would have been wiser given that the country desperately needs accountability from those in power. There are laws such as defamation that can deal with any perceived unfair reporting.

Furthermore, this disproportionate police action against the news portal could reinforce the suspicion that TMI’s recent critical reporting of financial scandals and political manoeuvring had earned it the wrath of those in power. If this is true, it doesn’t augur well for the already constricted civil liberties and press freedom in the country.

Besides, it is feared the drastic action against TMI is calculated to make it an example for other news portals that are perceived by the state as being too independent and critical for their liking.

The country’s leadership must do the right thing: release the two senior journalists and stop criminalising media freedom.

Aliran Executive Committee
31 March 2015

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John W. English
John W. English
3 Apr 2015 9.50am

The government’s heavy-handed mistreatment of these two journalists was reported in today’s New York Times, the most influential national daily in the U.S. On the one hand, the government claims to want to be viewed internationally as a moderate and democratic society, but it sinks that image instantly with such curtailment of the freedom of the press. It is easy for editors to correct reporting mistakes, if that’s what happened, with a correction and perhaps an apology. It’s far more difficult to rebuild a worldwide reputation as a just and fair society. These journalists should be immediately released with as much fanfare as when they were arrested. Swift federal action will ameliorate the government’s blunder.
John W. English U.S. Peace Corps in Sabah, Malaysia & Former Visiting Prof. Madya in Communications at USM .