In latest report, democracy watchdog lists ways China is shaping conversation in Malaysia

There was “a culture of self-censorship among both Malay- and Chinese-language journalists”, who were cautious about critiquing China as they may face retaliation or harm Malaysia’s bilateral ties with China.

(MMO) – A study by US-based watchdog Freedom House has revealed that China is making a large effort to influence Malaysian media, and listed Malaysia as “vulnerable” to these efforts.

The “Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022” report said that among China’s efforts were subsidised trips for politicians and journalists to visit Xinjiang — the main site of alleged abuse incidents against the Uyghur community — in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“Both journalists and politicians repeated Chinese state talking points upon their return,” read the report, which named several news organisations.

The report which was released last week, gave Beijing’s media influence efforts here a “high” score of 37 out of 85, while local resilience and response to these purported efforts were given a “notable” score of 35 out of 85.

According to the report, a score of zero denotes “least influence”, while a score of 85 denotes “most influence”.

The study which included interviews with members of the media, government, and civil society also noted incidents that it deemed as “censorship”.

Among them is the alleged existence of a WhatsApp group between the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia and journalists, which allows the embassy to directly relay any grievances with news outlets’ reporting.

“What is more likely to happen, however, is that the embassy would call an outlet’s upper management to express displeasure, accompanied by threats to pull advertisements if certain demands are not complied with,” said the report.

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