The report, entitled Locked down: Screws Tighten on Press Freedom in Malaysia, reviews a number of issues regarding the situation of journalists and media workers in the country during their routine work. Both the NUJM and IFJ hope this report will capture the government’s attention on the challenges of domestic news media workers over the past year caused by government imposed restrictions and the continuing impacts of Covid-19.
The IFJ assisted the NUJM through conducting surveys which assessed issues such as gender and diversity of media personnel, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the media industry, public trust in media, the working conditions of journalists and the development of press freedom in Malaysia.
The report found Malaysian media has faced increased obstruction under the Perikatan Nasional government, which played a major role in the violation of press freedoms over the past year. Violations included police calling reporters to discuss ‘inaccurate news’ and media organisations being summoned under the Official Secrets Act (1972).
Many journalists and human rights organisations have turned their attention to the new government and their relationship with journalists following the ‘Sheraton Move’ political crisis last year, which saw the ousting of the Pakatan Harapan coalition government. Covid-19 also continued to place further pressure on journalists, with many unable to withstand the economic shock. Many media companies, such as Utusan and Kosmo, were liquidated and closed during the pandemic, with employees still waiting to recover their hard-earned wages.
NUJM said: “The government authorities, especially the relevant departments responsible for the media industry, must take serious action to the findings of the report in order to give appropriate corrections immediately.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ calls for the Malaysian government to pay specific attention to the findings of the report and to enact real change to support press freedom. Fair solutions to the problems journalists face must be enacted by the government in order to strengthen Malaysia’s media.”