The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) condemns the threats made against independent news portal Malaysiakini, by pro-government group ‘Red Shirts’. The IFJ and NUJM urge police to investigate the threats and guarantee the safety and security of Malaysiakini staff and offices.
On Thursday, November 3, Datuk Jamal Md Yunos, a member of the prime minister’s ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, issued a statement demanding Malaysiakini explain its funding from Open Society Foundation (OSF). The statement gave Malaysiakini management until 12 pm on Saturday, November 5 to explain the funds. Jamal said that should the deadline not be met, he would lead Red Shirts to hold a mass protest and ‘making sure part of the Malaysiakini office building is torn down” on that day. On Saturday, November 5, approximately 500 Red Shirts protested out the front of the Malaysiakini offices, chanting ‘close down Malaysiakini’. The protest lasted several hours, during which a police barricade stopped the protests gaining access to the building. There was no damage to the building, offices or any Malaysiakini staff.
The threats by Jamal were made after documents were leaked in October by DC leaks; suggested Malaysiakini received funds from OSF, which was set-up by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Soros is regarded with deep suspicion in Malaysia, due to allegations of his role in selling the Malaysia ringgit short during the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis.
Jamal alleged that the funds were been used to influence the next general election and overthrow Malaysian Prime Minister Naijb Razak. Malaysiakini has continued to report on the 1MDB corruption scandal since it broke in July 2015, and Najib’s alleged involvement.
NUJM said: “The laws of this country clearly state that no one, group or organisation can take the law into their own hands, including towards media practitioners who are held by the code of ethics for journalists.”
The NUJM condemn the threats made against Malaysiakini and said that such threats fall under criminal intimidation as outlined in the Malaysian Penal Code (503).
The IFJ said: “We strongly criticize the threats made against Malaysiakini, and the allegations of bias reporting. The media in Malaysia continues to face a number of challenges from state and non-state actors. Strong, independent media is an important cornerstone of society, and we call on the Malaysian authorities and governments to support Malaysia’s media.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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