Stop targeting Malaysiakini

 NGOs to MCMC: Stop targeting Malaysiakini

NONEA coalition of pro-human rights NGOs and members of civil society gathered at Malaysiakini‘s office in Bangsar Utama this morning in a show of support for the embattled online news site.

Led by National Institute for Electoral Integrity’s (NIEI) executive director Amin Iskandar , the crowd of about 30 NGO representatives, bloggers and members of the public gathered in front of Malaysiakini‘s office at about 10.16am.
Hazlan Zakaria in Malaysiakini

Carrying placards displaying statements such as, ‘Kami mahu Merdeka'(We want independence), ‘Stop targeting mkini’, ‘MCMC macai Rais Yatim’ (MCMC is Rais’ slave) and ‘Rais Yatim = Goebbels’, the group called on Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to stop harassing Malaysiakini.

NONEMalaysiakini has come under fire from MCMC since it posted two videos deemed ‘offensive’ by the commission. The videos were the ‘Temple demo: Residents march with cow’s head‘ of the infamous cow-head protest and ‘Hisham: Don’t blame cow-head protesters‘ which showed the Home Minister’s press conference regarding the issue.

Amin said that “NIEI believes the action by the MCMC is malafide in nature and contradicts the principle of democracy and the freedom of the press enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).”

He explained that according to Article 19 of the UDHR, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the right and freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontier.

MCMC infringing on human rights

In conjunction with the Malaysian Human Rights Day last week, the NIEI executive director demanded that the Malaysian government and MCMC stop its investigation of the news portal, which the NGO said “is clearly infringing on human rights in Malaysia”.

“While other mainstream media such as television and radio stations and print media are vigorously put under the spell of the Publication and Printing Presses Act, we urge the Malaysian government to allow and respect the rights of individuals to online information”, he said.

NONEAmin added that this uncalled-for-move by the Malaysian authorities on the media goes against the Prime Minister’s own mantra of ‘People First, Performance Now’.

He said that if people are the priority, respecting individual freedom and the right to information should be paramount.

When asked if the matter should be reported to the Malaysian human rights commission (known by its Malay acronym of Suhakam), so that it would be a matter of public record, NIEI chairperson Yunus Ali brushed the human rights commission aside by saying “Suhakam is just a record keeper.”

Amin agreed, saying that since the beginning Suhakam was only set up by then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir to calm a restless public who were demonstrating against his regime.

The appointment of former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam to Suhakam was especially suspect since he was implicated in the Memali incident, he added.

Yunus also said that the targeting of Malaysiakini is unfair since there are “other media who were extreme, chauvinistic, racist and fanned racial sentiments and were offensive but got away scot free to do whatever they want.”

‘If they whack you, get up and we will support you’

Suaram Coordinator Nalini Devi Elumalai who was also present said that the government should respect press freedom in Malaysia and called for the abolishment of the restrictive Publication and Printing Presses Act.

Writer’s Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) representative Ng Yap Hwa said that Home Minister Hishammudin Hussein should “acknowledge his actions and apologize”, in meeting the cow-head protesters, instead of taking action against Malaysiakini.

NONE“1Malaysia means nothing without democracy. Since we have benefitted from Malaysiakini, it is our duty to stand up and support them,” he said.

Fahmi Fadzil, a concerned member of the public said that “the public is very concerned with the persecution of the messenger of news.”

Blogger Bernard Khoo, better known as Zorro, is concerned with the fact that no warrants were given for the investigation and interrogations of Malaysiakini staff, saying that the matter should be looked into for possible legal actions.

He assured Malaysiakini of the public’s support, quoting an old Chinese proverb, “they whack you, get up, we will support you.”

Speaking on behalf of Malaysiakini, its CEO Premesh Chandran said, “We are just reporting the news. We show it as it is, in order to inform the public. Citizens in Malaysia can make up their own minds about the issue.”

Premesh called on MCMC to “quickly complete the investigation” and stop its harassment of Malaysiakini and its staff.

He is confident that “the law is on our side. We reported the news accurately, and we are on good grounds to fight it out in a court of law.”

NONEWhen asked if Malaysiakini received any support overseas with regards to the matter, Premesh confirmed that “there has been a lot of support from here and overseas.” He specifically mentions the support from Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).

Just today, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) joins the SEAPA in condemning MCMC’s actions against Malaysiakini.

In an email note to MCMC, copied to Malaysiakini, PINA “calls on the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to stop its intimidating tactics and harassment of Malaysiakini editors and staff members.”

When asked if the gathering extended their show of support for Malaysiakini, Yunus said, “This is just the teaser.” Amin further added that “there will be more after Raya.”

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