Repressive laws killing press freedom, say activists

ACTIVISTS are calling for the abolition of draconian laws to improve Malaysia’s standing in the press freedom index.

(The Vibes) – They said the governmnent’s flip-flop on reform promises also contributed to the country’s poor standing.

Malaysia dropped 34 spots to place 107th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2024’s World Press Freedom rankings. It was at 73rd spot last year.

This is the first time in three years Malaysia did not top the list for Southeast Asia. Thailand took the honour at 87th place.

Other Asean countries ranked as follows: Indonesia (111), Brunei (117), Singapore (126), Philippines (134), Cambodia (151), Laos (153), Myanmar (171), and Vietnam (174).

Human rights activist Kua Kia Soong said the decline was due to regressive legislation, such as the Sedition Act, preventive laws which allow detention without trial, such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, Prevention of Crime Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, and racially discriminatory policies.

The former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee said the conflation of race and religion is also a major cause for the erosion of freedom of expression and the press.

“We need a truly independent press council, which must include members of the National Union of Journalists and other personalities noted for their integrity and commitment to truth and justice.

“With such a council, the Malaysian media will be able to regulate itself without government interference,” Kua said.

He said Putrajaya must first repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

Kua said the requirement to renew printing licences annually and the prohibitive penalties is the biggest threat to press freedom.

“It is time for all freedom-loving Malaysians to make the repeal of the PPPA the top national agenda,” he said.


Broken promises

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said the government has made little effort to fulfil its promise to repeal and amend laws that restrict media freedom.

CIJ executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu said the government continues to discourage journalists from critical and unbiased reporting.

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