Malaysia 'only possible beacon of press freedom' in south-east Asia, says UK daily


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 27 Feb 2019

A file picture of the #808 Press Freedom rally held in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 8, 2015. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

A file picture of the #808 Press Freedom rally held in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 8, 2015. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Amid crackdowns on the press in south-east Asia, Malaysia is seen as "the only possible beacon of hope in the region", says British newspaper The Guardian.

 

This is compared to other neighbouring countries facing press crackdowns recently, such as Rappler founder and editor Maria Ressa, who was released on bail in the Philippines after being arrested for charges on cyber-libel against the government.

 

However, The Guardian noted in its report that the optimism for the Malaysian media landscape had "dimmed in recent months".

 

"While Malaysia has long had some of the most draconian laws used against journalists and critics – in particular the sedition law, the printing presses act and the recent anti-fake news law – the toppling of (former prime minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak in May last year was supposed to herald a new era for press freedom.

 

"The new coalition government led by (Prime Minister Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad has failed to repeal any of the laws which have been used to target critical journalists in the past," stated the article.

 

It added that even an attempt to repeal the anti-fake news law, passed by Najib just before his fall from power, failed in the senate.

 

Political cartoonist Zunar, who was persecuted by the Najib regime and given multiple charges for sedition, is not optimistic.

 

"All the laws that were used by the previous government to shackle critics, they still exist, and I see no serious steps to abolish them," Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, told The Guardian.

 

"People are still holding back criticism of Dr Mahathir, they still want to give him time, but it cannot last forever," he added.

 

"I am sure that he will go back to his old way of being a dictator who silences his critics. In my view that is why he is keeping all these laws; because one day he will use them again," he said.