Malaysians Demand for Media Freedom on World Press Freedom Day 2009

CIJ, WAMI: Time for a Road Map on Media Freedom for Democracy
KUALA LUMPUR: The time is right for reforms in media freedom and freedom of expression as the Malaysian public grows more discerning and demanding for a freer and more democratic society.

In commemorating World Press Freedom Day 2009, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)  and Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) call on Prime Minister Najib Razak to reveal a road map on media freedom for democracy, which entails immediate halt to any form of censorship of news, views and opinions, and to suspend the use of the licensing provision in the Printing Presses and Publications Act that gives the government arbitrary powers in deciding the terms for publications.
CIJ and WAMI also would like to remind the State Governments that it is high time reforms were put in place involving media and access to information laws.
Despite the strong message delivered by voters in the 12th general elections, rejecting censorship and control of media and information, and delivering a severe blow to the Federal Government under Barisan Nasional (BN), the latter has not taken any concrete steps to demonstrate its openness to change.
The latest restriction on Internet media by the BN-led Perak state from its Legislative Assembly scheduled on the May 7, is grossly inconsistent with the “1Malaysia” concept propounded by the new Prime Minister. We note worryingly that despite the rhetoric of openness in “1Malaysia”,  the new PM administration is reversing the former PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s recognition to professionally- run Internet media by regularly restricting them from covering official functions.
In addition, the Federal government is implicitly threatening bloggers and online commentators with the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA). This is evident as the new Information Minister Rais Yatim expounds “diplomatic” engagement with bloggers, his Ministry actively take action against those who criticized the Perak Royal House online using the CMA. The ISA was also memorably invoked in September 2008 against prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Selangor state Exco Teresa Kok and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng. Raja Petra is now in hiding, fearing a third detention under the law.
“We expect to see a road map presented to the public by August that contains plans and timelines for what will be done to reform the areas of media freedom and access to information. We want to know when and not if, the government will begin its review of the laws that affect freedom of expression,” said CIJ Executive Director V. Gayathry.
“Following this, by November, the government should table a bill to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act to provide for a one-time registration for media outlets and to reinstate/include judicial review of the Minister’s decision with regard to issuance of permit. At the same time Najib should first set up a Parliamentary Select Committee to review media laws,” said Wong Chin Huat.
Issued by
Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director, CIJ
Wong Chin Huat
Chairman, WAMI