Stop Political Intervention into and Self-Censorship in the Media Industry
May 3, 2010

Memorandum by Malaysians Demanding Press Freedom 2010

3rd May 2010

The World’s Bottom 30% in Press Freedom

Malaysia is not only trapped in the middle-income group, but also in the world’s bottom 30% of countries in respect of press freedom.

In the Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press world ranking exercise released annually before the World Press Freedom Day, Malaysia’s record in the past eight years is simply appalling: 71st/100 countries surveyed (2003), 154th/193 (2004), 152nd/194 (2005), 141st/194 (2006), 150th/195 (2008), 143rd/195 (2009) and 142nd/196 (2010). Even amongst ASEAN countries, we trail far behind East Timor, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and even Cambodia – all poorer than Malaysia.

Eight Major Violations of Press Freedom in Past 12 Months

We, the undersigned civil society groups and individual citizens call upon all Malaysians, especially the Najib Razak administration and media practitioners, to reflect on the following eight major violations of press freedom since the last World Press Freedom Day, either by direct interference of state or non-state actors, or self-censorship by media organisations:

1. Axing of a TV2 Documentary related to Bakun Dam

April 28, 2010 – State broadcaster Radio Television Malaysia’s Broadcasting Director-General Ibrahim Yahya directly instructed a Chinese-language documentary series “Galeri Mandarin Nasional” for TV2 to be taken off air after only two episodes. The 10-episode documentary series exposes the plight of more than 10,000 natives of Belaga, Sarawak, after their forced relocation to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan in 1998 owing to the construction of Bakun Dam. The documentary producer Chow reveals that his superior claimed that some “sensitive elements” in the documentary could be harmful to the Sibu parliamentary by-election to be held on May 16 and the upcoming Sarawak state election.

2. Interference and Censorship on NTV7 talk show “Editor’s Time”

April 20, 2010
– Joshua Wong Ngee Chong, award-winning producer for NTV7’s Chinese-language talk show “Editor’s Time” resigned in protest of self-censorship by the private television channel in the face of alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansur. Rosmah allegedly forwarded to NTV7’s senior management some text messages which accused as racist the talk show’s earlier episodes, that featured debates between politicians from the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat as well as independent commentators. Following such complaints, NTV7 decided that the talk show would not cover the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election on April 25 and political issues in general; nor would it invite opposition politicians as guests. Wong’s accusation was not denied by the NTV7 management in their response to his resignation. The alleged interference by Rosmah was completely blacked out by all mainstream media. In fact, among the mainstream newspapers, only “Nanyang Siang Pau” and “Oriental Daily” reported Wong’s resignation.

3. “Inaccurate Report” by “China Press” on IGP’s resignation

March 13, 2010 – The Home Ministry issued a show-cause letter to Chinese-language daily “China Press” for ‘misreporting’ the resignation of the Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan on March 25. Under Section 8A of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act 301), if convicted for publishing false news, offenders are liable to be jailed not more than three years or fined not exceeding RM20,000 or both. The Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein – whose jurisdiction covers both the police and newspapers – did confirm that Musa Hassan’s service would end in September. On March 19, “China Press” apologised for its “inaccurate report” and suspended its editor-in-chief Teoh Yong Khoon for two weeks over the incident.

4. Silencing criticism on whipping of women

February 24, 2010 – Following police reports lodged by a few non-governmental groups, English daily “The Star” publicly apologised for a column by its Managing Editor P. Gunasegaran on February 19 titled “Persuasion, not compulsion” which criticised the whipping of three Muslim women for illicit sex. Claiming that apology was not sufficient, Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) lodged a report on February 25 against Gunasegaran and non-governmental organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS) for ‘denigrating’ Islam and the Syariah law. In subsequent developments, the Home Ministry issued a show-cause letter to “The Star”, which then spiked a column by Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and a supporter of SIS, on the whipping issue.

5. New Publication Guidelines for Newspapers

December 17, 2009 – “Malaysiakini” reported that a meeting was called by the Home Ministry with newspaper editors to discuss the adoption of a new set of publishing guidelines. The elaborate but ambiguously worded guidelines were framed as “self-regulation”. The newspapers were reportedly instructed not to cover news related to cohabitation, adultery, homosexuality, counter-culture; and no graphics of human genitalia and G-strings.

6. MCMC’s harassment of “Malaysiakini” over Cow-head Protests

September 3, 2009 – The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) demanded online news portal “Malaysiakini” to take down two video clips related to an intimidating protest against the relocation of a temple in Shah Alam. One of the video clips was the footage of a press conference on September 2 held by Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who defended the protesters. MCMC’s Monitoring and Enforcement Division Senior Acting Director Abdul Halim Ahmad said that the videos contained offensive contents with the intent to annoy the Indian community. On September 8, MCMC grilled 10 staff members of “Malaysiakini” for a total of eight hours.

7.  Confiscation of Books

August 25, 2009 – Officials from the Control of Publication Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs seized 408 copies of the inaugural issues of “Gedung Kartun” (Cartoon Store) from the publisher’s office in Kuala Lumpur. The magazine, published by famous political cartoonist Zunar, poked fun at Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged connection with the murder of Mongolian interpreter-cum-model Altantuya Sharibu. The Department’s Assistant Secretary Abdul Razak Abdul Latif said the magazine was confiscated “primarily” due to the lack of a publication permit as well as for content “checking”.

December 24, 2009 – Copies of “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times” were confiscated from the Port Klang checkpoint, amounting to an effective ban which was lifted only in late April 2010, with no explanation offered for the lengthy inspection. Written by “Asian Wall Street Journal”former editor Barry Wain, the book contends that the fourth prime minister was responsible for losses of RM100 billion during his term in office.

January 29, 2010 – A total of 64 copies of two books – “Where Is Justice” and “1Funny Malaysia” – published by “Malaysiakini” were confiscated from two retailers in Penang and Malacca. The first book questions the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for cases of death in custody, while “1Funny Malaysia” is a collection of political cartoons by Zunar.

8. Transfer of NTV7’s Talk Show “Point of View” Host Florence Looi

July 15, 2009
– Online news portal “Merdeka Review” reported that private television channel NTV7 issued a memo to Florence Looi, the host and producer for an English talk show “Point of View”after asking her guests to rate the performance of Prime Minister Najib Razak in his first 100 days in office. The programme was aired last on July 5, after which she was re-assigned to field reporting.

While suppression of media freedom is often justified in the name of preserving inter-ethnic or inter-religious harmony by the Malaysian state, such action is often highly selective that certain quarters, including UMNO-owned Malay-language daily “Utusan Malaysia” and a magazine, “Al-Islam”, were exempted from being reprimanded for provocative, offensive or unprofessional practice.

The Perils of Media Control

Media freedom is protected by the Federal Constitution under Article 10(1)(a) for good reason, such that the violations of media freedom listed above have led to four severe consequences.

Firstly, by disempowering the media as the fourth estate, it disallows the public to scrutinize the state and promote good governance.

Secondly, by suppressing – often selectively – public discussions on the so-called sensitive issues, it prevents Malaysians of different ethno-religious, cultural, linguistic and socio-economic background from attaining true mutual understanding and real harmony.

Thirdly, by covering up injustices and disharmony, it marginalises further the usual victims – women, indigenous tribes, the urban and rural poor, sexual minorities and other vulnerable groups – preventing them from being heard and empowered. The silenced 10,000 members of the Belaga community in the axing of TV2’s “Galeri Mandarin Nasional” is a case in point.

Fourthly, silencing citizens in general curbs the creativity and dynamism Malaysians need so much to upgrade the country’s economy and break away from the middle-income trap.

These perils are caused by both political intervention by state and non-state actors, and self-censorship by media practitioners, thanks not least to draconian and anti-competitive media laws such as Printing Presses and Publications Act, Communications and Multimedia Act, Official Secrets Act and Internal Security Act.

Our Demands

We, the undersigned groups and individual citizens, demand the following actions to be taken before the next World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2011:

1. That a Royal Commission of Inquiry or Parliamentary Select Committee be formed to study and recommend thorough media law reform so that
1. there will be minimum entry barrier for print, broadcasting and Internet media to ensure plural ownership within and across media streams;
2. all political censorship mechanisms will be abolished and replaced by genuinely autonomous bodies consisting of representatives of media practitioners and civil society.

2. That the Federal, State and Local Governments defend journalists and citizens exercising freedom of expression and freedom of information from intimidation by non-state actors, and restrain from exploiting the existing laws – while they are being reviewed – to curb media freedom.

3. That the media practitioners uphold professionalism and media freedom instead of practising self-censorship.

In the immediate short run, we demand by the end of the month for:

1. An explanation by NTV7 and TV2 on the latest incidents of alleged censorship.
2. An unequivocal assurance from the Prime Minister that no one in his administration or family will undermine media practitioners’ professional judgement in the choice of topics, angles and news sources.

(For personal endorsement, please go to

Endorsing Civil Society Groups

1. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
2. All Women’s Action Society Malaysia (AWAM)
3. Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM)
4. Annexe Gallery
5. Bahagian Belia, Gabungan Persatuan-persatuan Bekas Penuntut Sekolah China W.P. & Selangor
6. Borneo Research Institute Sarawak (BRIMAS)
7. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
8. Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
9. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
10. Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR)
11. Child Development Initiative
12. Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
13. Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM)
14. Council of Churches of Malaysia Youth (CCM Youth)
15. Editorial board of Horizon e-journal
16. Education and Research Association of Consumer, Malaysia
17. Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation Malaysia
18. Federation of Indian Non-Governmental Organisations
19. Friends in Conversation (FIC)
20. Friends of Kota Damansara
21. Frinjan Collective
22. Gabungan Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Masyarakat India Selangor
23. Group of Concerned Citizens
24. Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE)
25. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
26. Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
27. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
28. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
29. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
30. Johor Tamizhar Sangam
31. Klang Consumer Association
32. Kuala Lumpur And Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section (KLSCAH-YS)
33. Kuala Lumpur Hindu Youth Organisation (KLHYO)
34. Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
35. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
36. Majlis Kelab Bell Belia Tamil Malaysia
37. Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram
38. Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society
39. Malaysia Lekshmi Pooja Meditation Society
40. Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association
41. Malaysia Tamil Neri Kalagam
42. Malaysia Thanavasiya Association
43. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
44. Malaysian Archagar Sangam
45. Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
46. Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
47. Malaysian Ceylon Saivites Association
48. Malaysian Dravidian Association
49. Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
50. Malaysian Indian Business Association
51. Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
52. Malaysian Indian Development Association
53. Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
54. Malaysian Indian Historical Association
55. Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation
56. Malaysian Tamil Forum
57. Melaka Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
58. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
59. New Era College Alumni Association
60. New Era College Student Progressive Front
61. New Era College Media Studies Society
62. New Era College Student Union
63. New Millennium Indian Business Association of Malaysia
64. Penang Du Zhong Education Society
65. Penang Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
66. Penggerak Belia Zon23 MPSJ
67. People’s Parliament
68. Persahabatan Semparuthi
69. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor & KL
70. Persatuan Aruloli Mandram, Malaysia
71. Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)
72. Persatuan Kebajikan Dan Sosial Kamakshi Wilayah Utara
73. Persatuan Kebajikan MGR
74. Persatuan Kebajikan Namakkal Malaysia
75. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
76. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
77. Persatuan Meditasi Malaysia (Dhyana Ashram)
78. Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah
79. Persatuan Pergabung Tamil Malaysia
80. Persatuan Seni Rumah Air Panas KL (RAP)
81. Persatuan Silambam Malaysia
82. Pertubuhan Kesedaran Hare Krishna Klang
83. Pusat Komunikasi (KOMAS)
84. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
85. Saiva Siddhanta Mandram Malaysia
86. Sarawak Central Region Friendship Association
87. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
88. Sarawak Native Land Rights Owners (TAHABAS)
89. Sarawakians Access (SACCESS)
90. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
91. Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
92. Straten Malaysia
93. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
94. Sundararaja Perumal Devasthanam Klang
95. Tamilar Sangam, Teluk Intan
96. The Micah Mandate (TMM)
97. Thiruvalluvar Nanneri Mayam Cameron Highlands
98. Thiruvarul Thavaneri Mandram Malaysia
99. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
100. World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter
101. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
102. Yayasan Penyelidikan dan Pembangunan Pendidikan Tamil Malaysia (Tamil Foundation)

Endorsing Political Party

1.   Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)

Contact Us
Islamic Renaissance Front
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Phone: +603-2615-7919
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Updated version: 2.39-20231022