Reporters who stir racial tension should be jailed, says Dr M

Zurairi AR, The Malaysian Insider

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today acknowledged the government’s censorship of news, but denied allegations that freedom of press is suppressed.

“If you play out ethnic issues to the point where people would want to fight each other, then we’ll censor that,” he told reporters at a press conference here after the International Conference on War-Affected Children organised by the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW).

“But otherwise it’s quite free … You read Harakah, Sin Chew Jit Poh, China Press, Malaysiakini … we don’t censor. We should really put them in jail.”

Asked to clarify who exactly should be jailed, Dr Mahathir replied: “Journalists lah.”

Dr Mahathir had earlier criticised the lack of press freedom in the US, where news of conflicts resulting from the superpower’s foreign policy is allegedly censored by its government and owners of news publications.

“Censorship is not only done by the government, I know that because I was in the government before.

“It is done by the owners of press. It is done by journalists like you, and it is done by your sub-editors who will edit what you write,” he added.

The former PM had been quoted admitting that he started his own blog because his voice was stifled.

“I became a blogger because I was blocked out from mainstream media. I still needed to say something,” he said when addressing the Asian Bloggers and Social Media Conference in 2010. 

Malaysia is ranked 122nd in the Press Freedom Index of 2011-2012, a rank shared with Algeria and Tajikistan.

Malaysia was ranked 104th in 2003, the last year of Dr Mahathir’s administration, and was ranked 131st in 2009, the year current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took over.