The Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IoJ) is appalled and deeply concerned by the heavy-handed action taken by the authorities against The Star newspaper over the front page layout of its Saturday (May 27) edition.
The front page, which had the headline “Malaysian Terrorist Leader” over a blow up photo of Muslims performing prayers, had sparked an outcry among certain groups for allegedly being insensitive to Muslims, who form the majority religious group in the country.
In response to public pressure, the Home Ministry summoned four senior editors to Putrajaya for questioning under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, and issued a show-cause letter to the paper.
https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/3935/ (Editors summoned)
At the same time, the police have launched a sedition probe on The Star, following numerous police reports lodged on the matter, according to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/…/the-star-probed-under-s… (Sedition probe)
The IoJ is of the view that such heavy handed action is highly disproportionate to the perceived offence, which could arguably boil down to editorial oversight as opposed to any deliberate attempt to sow racial and religious divisions as claimed by critics.
We also note with deep concern calls made by certain parties for The Star to be suspended, as such a move would be yet another nail in the coffin of press freedom in Malaysia, which is already severely curtailed by archaic laws and hostile treatment by many who hold positions of power.
The Star has since suspended two top editors indefinitely pending investigations into the matter. This decision shows that the paper is willing to take responsibility for whatever transgressions it is seen to have committed, perceived or otherwise.
The IoJ repeats its position that the only way forward in promoting a free press is to allow media organisations to decide for themselves how to deal with such issues and to determine their editorial direction, without undue and misplaced pressure from the authorities.
We also reiterate our call on the Malaysian government to repeal the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and other repressive laws that impugn on freedom of speech.
The government must take proactive measures to protect media freedom in the country and allow the media to operate freely and independently without any undue interference or threats of persecution for doing their jobs.
Institute of Journalists Malaysian (IoJ)
May 31, 2017