Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces the arbitrary blocking by a Malaysian regulatory agency of several political news websites critical of the government and urges the Ministry of Communications and Digital to put an end to such acts of censorship.
On 29 August a group of senior Malaysian journalists issued a joint statement denouncing the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), a regulatory agency, for “censoring or blocking portals and online news content”.
In recent weeks, several news websites publishing articles critical of the government have been suspended in the country and required to remove some of their content by this regulatory body.
Upon order of the MCMC, an agency supervised by the Ministry of Communications and Digital, the news website TV Pertiwi has been unavailable in the country since mid-August. The MCMC has also ordered the media to remove several items from its website, but the TV Pertiwi staff refused to comply with this injunction.
Earlier, just before the state elections of 12 August, the online media UtusanTV was blocked for several days. Malaysia Now, another news website, was also rendered inaccessible for 48 hours on 27-28 June without any official explanation, despite repeated requests from the editorial team.
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“RSF is very concerned by this wave of suspensions by Malaysian authorities, without any explanations nor judicial control, of news websites critical of the government. We urge the Minister of Communications and Digital, Fahmi Fadzil, to put an end to these acts of censorship which can only have a negative impact on Malaysia’s democracy,” – Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific bureau director.
Despite an improvement in the press freedom situation in Malaysia in recent years, independent journalists and media remain regular targets of the authorities. In January 2022, RSF reported that the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had brought a defamation suit against Lalitha Kunaratnam, an investigative journalist, for reporting an alleged conflict of interests within the commission.
Malaysia is ranked 73rd out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, the highest among Asean countries.