KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — Malaysia upholds the right to free speech and information, but its people are accountable for how they practise it, Wisma Putra said today in response to Washington DC’s recent concern over a perceived crackdown on local media.
In defence of the government’s ban on local news portal The Malaysian Insider (TMI), the Foreign Ministry said the decision had been made with due consideration to safeguard the country.
“While Malaysia upholds the freedom of speech and right to information, such freedom and right must be exercised responsibly and with accountability.
“The Government of Malaysia has a responsibility to maintain peace, stability, and harmony in the country and to safeguard the multiracial and multicultural values, norms and practices in Malaysia,” the ministry said in a statement issued late tonight.
It added that it still valued its “progressive” relationship with the US, adding that it believed the sentiment was reciprocated by the US as well.
“Malaysia also believes that the bilateral ties could be further strengthened to greater heights through closer cooperation and better understanding of the domestic issues in Malaysia,” it said.
A US official was reported by international news wire Reuters saying Washington was “very concerned” by Malaysia’s recent restrictions of access to reporting on its domestic current affairs.
Speaking for the US State Department, Joh Kirby reportedly suggested the extent of press and Internet freedom here could affect prospects for expanded bilateral cooperation between the US and Malaysia.
Domestic access to TMI was blocked last week after it ran a news report quoting an anonymous source on a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panel which contradicted official statements by the commission.