Malaysia: Press freedom drops to new low

There are extreme concerns for journalism in Malaysia with a drastic drop in their national rankings of press freedom, following the release of the World Press Freedom Index 2021 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists Malaysia) (NUJ) call on the Malaysian government to ensure decisions are made to protect journalists.

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration to protest the ejection of the democratically elected government. Credit Mohd RASFAN / AFP

Malaysia has dropped 18 ranks, from 101 in 2020 to 119 in 2021 out of 180 in the recently released World Press Freedom Index. It follows a year of worsening restrictions on journalists both in Malaysia and across the world, justified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

NUJM has called for the need to improve the environment for journalists in Malaysia, to work without fear of harassment or the need for self-censorship. They have also called for the repeal of current draconian legislative measures which continue to suppress media freedom.

The World Press Freedom Index has been published every year since 2002. It provides a ranking and analysis of media rights in over 180 countries worldwide. This year, it made particular reference to the worsening situation for journalists amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The media is partly or completely restricted in 132 countries, according to the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, with only 7% of countries found to offer ‘a favorable environment for journalism’. The four worst countries for press freedom were Turkmenistan, North Korea, Eritrea and China.

NUJ said: "The RSF index basically indicates that the situation in Malaysia has actually gone from bad to worse. Emergency regulations introduced to contain the Covid-19 spread however was instead used to target critical reporting. At times like this, NUJM would like to remind the government that objective reporting is the best vaccine against disinformation.”

The IFJ said: “There must be action taken by the Malaysian government to ensure journalists are able to their job without fear. RSF’s world press freedom index demonstrate how press freedom is being strangled in Malaysia. The government must work to improve this and stop the repression and vilification of journalists."

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

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