Malaysia: Communication and Multimedia Act targets the media

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) continues to be used to prosecute media workers despite the minister’s commitment to review the act’s restrictions on press freedom. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disappointed that authorities continue to use CMA to delegitimise journalists and undermine dissent.

Tashny Sukumaran, a correspondent for Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post in Malaysia. Credit: Tashny Sukumaran

Since Malaysia’s change in the political landscape in February, authorities have used section 233 of the CMA to criminalise dissenting voices and journalists according to CIJ. On June 9, a Kuala Lumpur cyber court charged a blogger, Dian Abdullaha for her posts on Malaysia’s king and prime minister. Authorities alleged Abdullaha shared offensive content under section 233 of the CMA and section 505(b) of the Penal Code. 

Last month, South China Morning Post correspondent, Tashny Sukumaran faced similar charges on May 6 when Malaysian police summoned her for reporting on raids in Covid-19 red zones. Sukumaran was questioned at Kuala Lumpur federal police headquarters for two hours on May 6. In response, Communications and Multimedia minister Saifuddin Abdullah instructed the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission to not act against the journalist, signalling he would review the laws used to criminalise press freedom. 

Civil society organisations say the CMA is deeply problematic for its vague definitions and heavy punishments that infringes upon the constitutional right to freedom of expression. The section allows for persons to be imprisoned for up to one year and fined up to RM 50,000 (USD 12,000) for posting offensive or annoying content.

The IFJ said: “The arbitrary and repressive laws restricting the ability of citizens and journalists to express dissent needs urgent review. Authorities must prioritise freedom of expression and stop using the CMA to target journalists.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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