Thursday, April 30, 2015

Press freedom dips amid gov't crackdown

10:22AM Apr 30, 2015
Malaysia's press freedom ranking fell a place to the 142nd position in 2014 amid police crackdowns on criticism of the government, which has intensified this year.

According to US-based Freedom House's Press Freedom Report 2014, Malaysia is in the same league as Pakistan and Turkey, which also share the same rank.

Freedom House also found that global press freedom declined in 2014 to its lowest point in more than 10 years.

Malaysia's score declined from 64 to 65 and was categorised as "not free".

The scoring is based on a scale of 100, with a lower number denoting greater freedom and a higher number meaning less freedom.

Ahead of Malaysia are Ecuador and Guinea which share rank 140, while Mexico is also ahead at 139th place.

The report noted: "Conditions for the media deteriorated sharply in 2014, as journalists around the world faced mounting restrictions on the free flow of news and information, including grave threats to their own lives".

"Governments employed tactics, including arrests and censorship, to silence criticism," it said.

String of arrests

For Malaysia, the country saw a string of arrests under the Sedition Act in 2014, with at least 42 sedition cases, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

Among those arrested include Malaysiakinijournalist Susan Loone, Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque or Zunar, while BFM radio presenters were investigated for criticism of Kelantan's hudud plans.

The series of arrests came amid Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's pledge to repeal the Sedition Act, a promise on which he later reneged.

Last year also saw Najib suing Malaysiakini for readers' comments about the Terengganu menteri besar crisis.

Malaysia's ranking is likely to continue its decline this year after Najib sued two more news organisations this year, MediaRakyatand Harakahdaily, over reports on 1Malaysia Development Bhd and his family.

According to ICJ, the number of sedition cases for the first quarter of this year stood at 36, already on track to exceed the number of total cases for the whole of last year.
~ Malaysiakini

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