In conjunction with World Press Freedom Day, the Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ) calls for an end to any and all intimidation of the press by the authorities.
In recent weeks, we highlighted no less than two cases where journalists have faced criminal investigations for news reports that allegedly did not go down well with news makers.
There are sufficient legal avenues for any party to seek recourse if they believe they have been defamed in the media. The State should not interfere in private matters.
Aside from ending intimidation, the government must also stop arbitrary blocks of online news sites and remove any and all government oversight of print publications, in the interest of freedom of information.
Freedom of information must be protected in a mature democracy so that citizens can know more about matters that affect them and be able to make informed choices.
As Malaysia moves towards developed nation status by 2020, fundamental freedoms like freedom of information must similarly be increased to promote a marketplace of ideas and to allow society to flourish.
In line with improving access to information, we also call for the repeal of oppressive laws such as the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), the Sedition Act 1948 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).
These laws, many of which date back to the era of colonial rule, give the authorities the power to decide broadly what can and cannot be discussed in public. Such legislation should not have any place in a modern democracy.
We also call for the consultation of all stakeholders before the government proceeds with legal amendments that will require news portals and so-called political blogs to register with the government.
The proposed regulation of online media is unnecessary and troubling, given the way the now-defunct news website The Malaysian Insider was arbitrarily blocked over an allegedly inaccurate news report. We strongly oppose any form of regulation of the press, especially if such measures are abused to suppress negative reports about the government of the day.
On World Press Freedom Day, we urge the government not to look at the media as enemies, but as a crucial institution that must be free to hold the powerful accountable.
Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ)
May 3, 2016