Putrajaya’s unwillingness to answer allegations on debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) only affirms the people’s suspicion of large-scale corruption, the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) said in condemning the suspension of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily by the Home Ministry.
Hakam president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the three-month suspension of both two publications was another blatant attempt to shut down much-needed public discourse on an important issue that billions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money was siphoned off.
She said the Sarawak Report website was also blocked for the same reasons, adding that the government should not be allowed to hide under the arbitrary notion of “public order”, which she said “clearly did not apply”.
“The government should instead encourage whistle-blowers and cooperate to seek the truth, not to silence them.
“When the government does otherwise in the face of corruption scandals, it is the government that is truly jeopardising ‘public and national interests’,” Ambiga said in a statement today.
Recalling the period of Op Lalang in the late 1980s when newspapers like The Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan were shut down for doing their job, Ambiga said it should not be allowed to recur.
She also warned that if the government was allowed to carry on abusing its powers, it would not be long before they clamped down on individual Facebook and Twitter users.
The former president of the Malaysian Bar and award-winning human rights activist also said the right to freedom of expression was crucial to the country’s democracy, where information and ideas were needed for informed political debate and essential to public accountability and transparency in government.
“This continuous erosion of our fundamental liberties must cease.
“Now more than ever, the freedom of expression, especially freedom of the press, to engender public discourse on the alleged scandal of major proportions that threatens the fundamental fabric of our country must be guarded, preserved and yes, promoted,” she said, adding that it was necessary for economic and social progress.
The Home Ministry suspended the publishing permit of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months beginning July 27.
A letter from the ministry stated that the publications’ coverage of state investment firm 1MDB was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interests”.
Earlier this month, The Edge received a show-cause letter in which the ministry gave it seven days to explain why action should not be taken under the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984.
The Edge was accused of publishing articles on the state fund which were said to have created confusion and doubt about the Malaysian government and financial institutions.
1MDB is particularly sensitive for the government, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is its advisory board chairman and also heads the Finance Ministry, which owns 1MDB. He has also been implicated, with allegations that money from 1MDB-linked entities went to his personal bank accounts.
He has not addressed this claim directly but only denied taking funds for “personal gain”. – July 25, 2015.
- Uphold Malaysians’ fundamental rights – Suhakam [27 Jul 2015]
- Ministry gives reasons for The Edge suspension [26 Jul 2015]
- Suspending The Edge will worsen economy, says Transparency International [26 Jul 2015]
- Any decision to suspend The Edge should only be taken after 1MDB probe, TI-M says [26 Jul 2015]
- Dangerous precedence to human rights violations ― Denison Jayasooria [25 Jul 2015]
- Lift the suspensions of The Edge Malaysia and The Edge Financial Daily ― The Institute of Journalists Malaysia [25 Jul 2015]
- Freedom of press in Malaysia must be upheld — Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia [24 Jul 2015]
- Nazir Razak: Correct, not suspend The Edge if reporting faulty [24 Jul 2015]
- Bersih 2.0: The Edge freeze shows Putrajaya now bent on hiding ‘truth’ [24 Jul 2015]
- The Edge suspension triggers fears of media clampdown [24 Jul 2015]