Malaysian government crack down continues: Malaysiakini CEO charged

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the charges brought against the CEO and Editor-in-chief of Malaysiakini for posting footage of a press conference in July 2016. The IFJ calls for the charges to be immediately withdrawn.

On May 15 2017, Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini CEO was charged under section 244(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) at the Kuala Lumpur Cyber Court. The charges were brought against Premesh after Malaysiakini posted footage from a press conference in July 2016, where former political Khairuddin Abud Hassan called for the Attorney General to be sacked, after the Attorney General’s decision to clear Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption allegations. The post by Malaysiakini was titled ‘Khairuddin: Apandi Ali is not fit to be AG’ and was aired on July 27, 2016.  The charges against Premesh come six months after Malaysiakini Editor-in-chief, Steven Gan, was charged under the same CMA section for the footage. KiniTV Sdn Bhd was also charged for ‘improper use of network facilities or services’ under Section 233(1)(a) of CMA.

Premesh was charged in May as he was on sabbatical leave, residing in the United Kingdom and returned to Malaysia earlier this month to face the charges. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed trial. Both Premesh and Gan are also directors of Kini TV Sdn Bdh.

Section 244(1) of CMA is a rarely used piece of legislation, which criminalises offences by corporations, and according to Article 19, creates a presumption that senior officers within a company are guilty for offences committed by that company, unless they can prove the offence was committed without their knowledge, consent or connivance, and that all reasonable precautions to the prevent the commission of the offence were taken.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism in Malaysia demanded the charges be dropped and “for the government to cease all harassment and intimidation of the media and journalists. Media practitioners including journalists and directors of media companies should not be penalized for reporting content of interest to the public.”

The IFJ said: “The charges against Malaysiakini’s Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran are a blatant attempt to silence the outlet, which is a well-known, independent and critical voice in Malaysia. In recent years, the Government of Malaysia has continued to crack down on critical voices, using outdated laws such as CMA and the Sedition Act. The IFJ demands the immediate withdrawal of the charges against Chandran, Gan and Kini TV.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

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

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: