Malaysia: Media organisations alarmed by police harassment of journalists

The harassment of journalists throughout this year, perpetrated by Malaysian authorities, has raised concern from Malaysia’s media advocacy organisations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) call on the government to end the intimidation and threatening of the media.

NUJM, CIJ and Geramm Logos

The NUJM, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), and Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) issued a statement on May 24 in response to five incidents of journalists’ questioned and investigated by authorities over the last few months. The joint statement noted media from Malaysiakini, Astro Awani, Free Malaysia Todayand the China Press have all been subject to investigations by the police this year.  

Throughout May, there has been a noticeable increase in journalists targeted by police, with two Malaysiakini journalists summoned by police on May 18 to give a statement. According to the statement, the police summons concerned three articles relating to A Ganapathy, who died seeking treatment following police arresting him in February. Another Malaysiakini journalist, Jimadie Shah Otham, was questioned on May 10 relating to their article on allegations made by the previous inspector-general of police, Abdul Hamid Bador.

In the joint statement, the media advocacy groups said they “are alarmed by the frequent use of harassment tactics by the Malaysia authorities towards the media.” 

The joint statement called for the government to “(1) Stop summoning the media based on their news articles; (2) Drop all investigations against the media; (3) Initiate an independent inquiry into possible mismanagement of the powers of the authorities in their actions against media; (4) Move ahead with the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council as a transparent and independent self-regulatory body for the industry, and to avoid the government from becoming the sole arbiter of trust and deciding what information should and should not be published.” 

The NUJM said: "NUJM calls on the government to end and refrain from the continued use of intimidating measures to threaten and punish the media and silence critical voices. Malaysia’s press freedom index is warning that intimidating journalists was a sign of a failing state and it is more paramount for the current regime to create an enabling environment that would support free media."

The IFJ said: “The arbitrary summoning of media by authorities for reporting on matters of public interest is a clear violation of press freedom and an attempt to stifle the truth. The IFJ supports the calls from the media advocacy group and urges the government to take immediate action.” 

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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