Home Media statements Media freedom in Malaysia: Two steps forward, two steps backwards!

Media freedom in Malaysia: Two steps forward, two steps backwards!

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Aliran is concerned by the drop in Malaysia’s 2024 press freedom ranking from 73rd spot last year to 107th now – a slide of 34 places.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also gave Malaysia a score of 52.07 points, down from 62.83 points in 2023

Malaysia’s current score of 52.07 points sets it back to where it was before Pakatan Harapan took over the federal government for the second time in a “unity government” coalition in 2022. In May 2022, Malaysia had scored 51.55 points to rank 113th.

Malaysia’s current score of 52.07 points is also similar to its score on 3 May 2018 of 52.59, just before PH won the general election on 9 May 2018.

What this means is that our press freedom scores are back to where they were before the change of government in 2018 and 2022. Any gains from the change of government after the first year in power have been wiped out in terms of the points score – even though Malaysia’s current ranking of 107th is still an improvement from the 145th in 2018.

Although the RSF ranking and points score has its shortcomings, it does an indication of the erosion of media freedom in Malaysia over the last year.

This is not surprising given that the expectations in the country of a freer media climate and the removal of repressive laws have failed to materialise.

The prohibition on discussion of the “three Rs” (race, religion and royalty) also appears to have contributed to a culture of self-censorship.

The continued existence of repressive laws such as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Sedition Act has dampened the climate for media freedom.

READ MORE:  Expanding print media law to govern online content will hurt press freedom

These laws have been used to haul up independent writers, bloggers and even social media commentators. The authorities’ high-handed actions have added to the chilling impact on media freedom.

The government’s launch of a controversial new “code of ethics” for journalists in February 2024 faced pushback and failed to improve the climate.

All this is in stark contrast with the mood in May 2023 (five months after the “unity government” was formed) and in May 2019 (a year after PH took over for the first time). Malaysia’s score shot up to 62.83 points in 2023 and 63.26 points in 2019. The expectation back then was the repressive laws would be dismantled to usher in greater media freedom.

Aliran calls on the government to repeal the laws that curb media freedom and freedom of expression.

The unity government has to live up to the expectations for reform and allow media freedom to provide the checks and balances that are crucial in a vibrant democracy.

Aliran executive committee
5 May 2024

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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