A Malaysian news weekly has been suspended indefinitely by the Home Ministry, apparently for an article criticising overspending by the country’s ‘first couple’, says Seapa.
A notice on the front page of The Heat website informed readers that the newsweekly’s 21 December issue would not be released as scheduled, in compliance with an order from the Home Ministry.
The Malaysia Insider reported that the suspension came after The Heat received a show cause letter, summoning the editor David Lee Boon Siew to the Home Ministry office and ordering him to tone down its report.
The letter did not specify the article that caused the issuance of the order, but said it was believed to be related to a front-page article titled “All eyes on big-spending PM Najib”, on the expenditures of the Prime Minister and his wife, which appeared on The Heat’s 22-29 November issue.
SEAPA believes that this act of the Home Ministry is plain and simple political intimidation of the media.
Despite the Prime Minister’s pronouncements supporting media freedom, there has been very little concrete action towards this end, including the repeal of the repressive Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).
The Home Ministry has also consistently disproved this pronouncement, not only through this unjustified suspension of The Heat, but also its futile insistence to defend its arbitrary denial of a printing permit to online newspaper Malaysiakini, and on two occasions, seizing copies of news papers earlier this year.
The suspension of The Heat – over an article concerning the legitimate public interest of state expenditures and an alleged abuse of political privilege – demonstrates the government policy to keep media under strict control is still very much in force.
The South-East Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation campaigning for genuine press freedom in the region.