THM - Muzzling and intimidating the media
Friday, February 26, 2016

The blocking of news portal, The Malaysian Insider, is an attempt to muzzle the local media and intimidate the Fourth Estate in the country. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) must provide clearer and cogent reasons in exercising its power to block Malaysian Internet users from accessing the news portal.

The Centre for A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet), a civil society that promotes moderation and good governance, says the authorities should charge the portal under existing legislation if they feel that The Malaysian Insider had broken the law.

“MCMC had so far only offered vague reasons couched in general blanket terms for restricting access to the website from Malaysia,” Cenbet says in a statement issued today.

“All exercise of discretionary powers by public authorities vested with the relevant powers, other than cases involving real threats to national security like military action or terrorism, must necessary be justified by providing clear and unequivocal charges and reasons.

“In other words, MCMC has a duty to give reason in line with the current jurisprudence of public administrative laws.”

Cenbet says merely stating that the portal could be in breach of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act does not answer how content in the portal could be “obscene, indecent, menacing or offensive with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass”.

In the interests of transparency and good governance which Cenbet promotes, the least MCMC could have done is to specify the article in contention, who the aggrieved party is, and why this warranted the drastic and rare move to restrict access to the site, it added.

“Unless articles in The Malaysian Insider, or any other websites, contain seditious content, calls to topple the government by way of violence, pornography or any other elements deemed genuinely detrimental to national security, there should be no reason to block online content,” the civil society says.

“In a healthy democracy, a free press acts as a check-and-balance on the government and is a platform for ideas to flourish. Those aggrieved by media reports are given the right of reply and have the option to take media to court.

“Curtailing access to The Malaysian Insider through administrative measures is tantamount to issuing veiled threats to other media companies and this goes against the government's pledge to ensure a free and responsible press.

“This comes on the heels of the three-month suspension of The Edge and The Edge Financial Daily; the detention of key personnel from The Edge and The Malaysian Insider and charging cartoonist Zunar for sedition in 2015.”

This does not bode well for Malaysia, whose press freedom ranking has been slipping over the years, it added. In 2014, it is ranked 147 in the World Press Freedom Index, down two placing from the year before, faring worse than Myanmar (ranked 144) and Zimbabwe (ranked 131).

Source: The Heat Malaysia

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