Explain grounds for probe into news portal, MCMC urged

PETALING JAYA: Groups representing journalists are troubled over the announcement that authorities are probing an online news portal for alleged “insults” against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In a joint statement, Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm), Wan-IFRA Media Freedom Committee (Malaysia) and Institute Journalists Malaysia (IoJM) said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) must explain their grounds for investigating The Malaysian Insight.

“The claims of ‘insult’ against Najib, which have been repeated over two days during the Umno general assembly, have not been backed up by any example or proof whatsoever,” they added.

According to them, it is of concern that a government agency would so quickly announce a probe into a news agency based on complaints that have not been backed by any proof of intent to insult the Prime Minister, as alleged.

“Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak should state the exact provisions under which this probe is taking place, failing which, the action would just be an addition to a long list of criminal investigations against news portals in the country that has only served to curtail press freedom,” they added.

They said there are adequate avenues to pursue civil legal remedy instead of initiating a criminal probe against media organisations, should any parties be offended or insulted by a particular news coverage.

They stressed that criticism of public office holders is a key part of freedom of speech, which is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

“MCMC had in the past blocked access to The Malaysian Insider. These actions contributed to the decision of the owners and operators of the portal to eventually shut it down in 2016, leaving the staff without a job overnight.

“The Government should keep in mind that such high-handed actions go against its commitment to nurture a vibrant democracy,” they added.

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