Aliran is disturbed to learn that the police have called in a journalist working for a foreign publication for questioning after she reported about the recent immigration crackdown on migrants in Kuala Lumpur.
The police are reportedly investigating Tashny Sukumaran of the South China Morning Post under Section 504 of the Penal Code for insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace and under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
But Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has instructed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission not to act against her.
To think that Tashny was informed about the probe today, World Press Freedom Day, of all days.
Aliran would like to remind the government of the UN’s call to governments around the world just two days ago not to criminalise the work of journalists at this critical time.
The authorities should not deem the journalist’s reporting of the government’s move to round up undocumented migrants during the pandemic as an attempt to shame the government on the world stage. After all, many groups have roundly criticised this act as inhumane.
If the authorities consider such reporting to be criminal, then it would drive Malaysia down the world press freedom ranking as their probe would clearly violate press freedom. That would be a great pity as the nation has made admirable strides, climbing 44 places in the global ranking since 2018. Malaysia boasts the freest press in South East Asia – surely something we can take pride in.
A responsible press within and outside the country has a solemn duty to present the truth, not a sugar-coated version of the truth. It is not the role of the press to make the government look good, especially if it has committed an act that is questionable or indefensible.
On the contrary, it is the job of the press as the fourth estate in a democracy to hold the government accountable for its actions. Otherwise, the government’s political legitimacy would further hang in the balance.
We call on the Perikatan Nasional government not to go down a regressive path by undermining press freedom. The investigation into Tashny’s journalism must be dropped.
World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2020