Malaysian media cries ‘crackdown’
Two Malaysian opposition newspapers have been banned for three months, reportedly for inciting “hatred” of the government.
Five news websites have been barred from reporting the ruling party conference for being “not friendly”.
No surprise then that the opposition says a media crackdown is under way.
The newspapers banned are Suara Keadilan, run by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Keadilan party, and Harakah, published by the Islamic party PAS.
The papers have vowed to defy the ban and continue publishing during a period of intense political activity, with a leadership transition,
a ruling party conference, and three by-elections all to take place in the next few weeks.
In reports published on Tuesday, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the newspapers had threatened the stability of the multi-racial nation,
particularly with their reporting on a struggle for control of a northern state, which erupted in January.
“We found that facts were distorted and fabricated with the aim to create misunderstanding and instill hatred for the government and leaders,”
he said, according to the New Straits Times.
“We want to send them a clear message,” he said.
“You can promote your political ideology but do not create dissension that could disrupt peace and stability.”
Malaysia’s mainstream media are largely government-linked, and the opposition relies on its own press, as well as Internet news sites and blogs,
to convey its message to the public.
Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 132 out of 173 on its worldwide press freedom index, and says the mainstream media are
“often compelled to ignore or to play down the many events organised by the opposition.”
The ruling party, UMNO, has been in disarray since elections a year ago that saw an unprecedented loss of ground to the opposition.
Its general assembly, which begins Tuesday, is expected to establish a recovery plan.
Five Malaysian news websites told AFP on Tuesday they had been barred from covering the ruling party’s annual conference.
An UNMO official confirmed the party had rejected several applications from online media for access to the five-day talks but did not give an exact number.
UMNO working secretary Husainay Hashim said the decision was made was because their coverage of previous UMNO meetings was “not friendly”.
“From our experience with Malaysiakini for instance, they are not too friendly with us, they are not helping us. You have to report based on facts, not distorting the story,” he told AFP.
Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan criticised the decision, saying it showed a lack of respect for press freedom and that it could signal a wider clampdown when incoming premier Najib Razak takes over later this month.
“Our job is to report news as professional journalists, the issue of being friendly with a certain party does not come into the picture,” he said.
Political commentators are watching closely to see which direction will be taken under new leader Najib Razak,
who is to replace Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the five-day party conference.
“We fear that this action by the government is a prelude to a general clampdown on press freedom in Malaysia,” Keadilan spokesman Tian Chua said Monday
In this blog, reporters and editors for global news wire AFP blog about the news they report and the challenges they face covering events from Baghdad to Beijing, the White House to Darfur. Sarah Stewart is AFP bureau chief in Kuala Lumpur.
’ not allowed to report… on account that you are not freindly enough!’
be afraid, be very afraid.