The Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ) views with serious concern the recent reported announcement by a federal minister of plans to take action against Malaysiakini for citing a foreign news report in a story on Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik.
On July 11, Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak was quoted in a report by Utusan Malaysia as saying that his ministry will “investigate and use existing powers to take action” against Malaysiakini for publishing a story that cited a report by Bangladesh-based newspaper The Daily Star on Dr Zakir.
The Daily Star in its original report claimed that Dr Zakir had a following from among the suspects responsible for the deadly Dhaka attack on July 1.
The minister also reportedly took exception to Malaysiakini publishing allegedly “rude” comments posted by its readers in response to its story.
The Institute notes the growing tendency of the authorities in recent times to clamp down on journalists and media organisations on grounds of provoking sensitivities on various issues.
Any government has the right to take a position on any matter of public interest. Disagreeing with a journalist’s or news organisation’s line of reporting, however, does not justify immediate threats of legal or criminal action by the authorities.
The Institute is cognizant of the fact that religious and racial sensitivities are a prime consideration in Malaysia in many respects, including the publishing of news.
At the same time, it becomes the responsibility of news organisations to deliver information to the public in a timely and responsible manner, free from undue restraints or intimidation from the authorities and those in public office.
Rather than react with a confrontational approach, the Institute urges the minister and the authorities to actively engage the media and to build an open, direct and honest dialogue as is the norm in mature democracies.
Heavy-handed treatment of the media will only result in the shutting down of viable avenues for the public to gain trustworthy and reliable information, and is ultimately a disservice to public interest.
The Institute of Journalists Malaysia