Najib’s fear campaign — Bridget Welsh

Source: New Mandala

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s ruthless tactics to hold onto power at all costs demonstrate that he is the one who is most afraid while his people are willing to fight on, Bridget Welsh writes.

bersih

Picture taken from New Mandala

This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy.

For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice.  The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process.

Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he is to avoid international prosecution. The most obvious of these involves a crackdown on political opponents. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015. Since then more than 10 opposition politicians have faced a variety of charges from sedition to challenges to ‘parliamentary democracy’. Last month whistleblower and parliamentarian, Rafizi Ramli, was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for releasing evidence associated with 1MDB. This week’s UMNO meeting has called for continued no-holds barred attacks on the opposition. Read more

Media freedom on back foot in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Bangkok: A journalist has been sacked from a key Myanmar newspaper after writing about security forces allegedly mass raping villagers, as press freedom comes under increasing attack across south-east Asia.

The English-language Myanmar Times dismissed Scottish-born Fiona MacGregor, the paper’s special investigations editor, after public condemnation of her reporting on Myanmar’s western Rakhine State by the President’s Office and a complaint from the Ministry of Information.

The state is under military lock-down following deadly attacks last month on police border posts which have been blamed on Muslim Rohingya insurgents. Read more

Media extremism 101 — Mustafa K. Anuar

Source: The Malay Mail Online

By Dr. Mustafa K. Anuar

Dr. Mustafa K Anuar is a fellow at Penang Institute. Pic taken from the Malay Mail Online

Dr. Mustafa K Anuar is a fellow at Penang Institute. Pic taken from the Malay Mail Online

NOV 3 — Malaysia’s political arena serves as a rich repository of certain ideas and phenomena that otherwise rarely capture the imagination of the ordinary people.

Not too long ago, for instance, Malaysians bore witness to a bizarre fear that engulfed — and still haunts — certain sections of our society, particularly with the emergence of the Bersih movement. It’s called Xanthophobia, the fear of the colour yellow which has given rise to various kinds of knee-jerk and even puerile reactions within our society.

And recently, a seemingly new concept was bandied about by no less than PAS political leader Abdul Hadi Awang, i.e. “media extremism”, which he felt could cause disharmony in the country. This came about after his meeting with Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.

An inkling of what he meant by this can be found in the words he reportedly expressed: false news, slander and certain information that is unverified by social media users. I’d like to take this opportunity to venture into Hadi’s notion of “media extremism.”

For starters, it is clearly “media extremism” if a media organisation provides a platform only for one particular party in a conflict while denying the voice of the other.  Read more

Information freedom in Malaysia: Why we must empower the media and whistleblowers — Anas Alam Faizli

Source: Astro Awani

BY ANAS ALAM FAIZLI

In the current state, can the media in Malaysia be recognised as the fourth estate? Pic taken from Astro Awani

In the current state, can the media in Malaysia be recognised as the fourth estate? Pic taken from Astro Awani

Back in 2009, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak launched the New Economic Model (NEM), intended to spur the shift of a Government-led economy to the private sector.

He proclaimed that “the era where the Government knows best is over.”Subsequently, in a 2014 interview at UMNO’s 68th anniversary, he reiterated, “And, with all sense of humility, we consider ourselves not as know-alls. I have said that the era of the Government knows best is over.”

What the Prime Minister said is perfectly accurate and must be applauded.

While the context might have been with regards to giving the lead to the private sector or receiving criticism from the general public, his statement will be meaningful only if public participation is included in the Government’s operations and policies.

This can only be achieved if the public is given access to government documents; in order to pave the way or provide constructive criticism.

There are two ways to do this effectively; periodical release of data for the general public to consume, analyse, and scrutinise and secondly, the granting of rights for the public to request government documents and information. Read more

Appreciate media’s role, they help enlighten public, DPM tells authorities

Source: The Malay Mail Online

PUTRAJAYA, June 20- Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today urged the authorities to understand and appreciate the media’s role in educating the public via news reports and exposés.

In his speech at a buka puasa feast for enforcement agencies at his official residence here, the Home Minister said that the roles played by all forms of media agencies are important.

“Appreciate their contributions.

“In a borderless world, the efforts from all quarters, including the social media is important as they give (news) coverage and exposes.

“I hope that the coverage and exposés will enlighten the public,” Ahmad Zahid said. Read more

The Malaysian government’s love-hate relationship with the media

Source: Asian Correspondent

Pic: TonTonic / Shutterstock.com

IT’S been a rocky year so far for the often-contentious relationship between Malaysia’s leaders and the media.

In the first quarter of 2016, we’ve seen a soap opera of events unfold, from the blocking of news portals and blogging platformsto the arrest of foreign journalists.

Yes, some may argue that we’re not as bad as other countries and pull out the “China/North Korea/any other authoritarian country” card, but let’s not bring ourselves down to that level.

As it stands, Malaysia is currently ranked at #147 out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report released by Reporters Without Borders which highlights worldwide standings in freedom of information. The country has seen an overall decline in press freedom over the years – it is at its lowest position since 2002, with its highest ranking in 2006, at #92.

According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report, in 2015, Malaysia scored as “Partly Free”, with middling results in freedom, civil liberties and political rights. Read more

Malaysia Considers Caning People Who Reveal State Secrets

Source: WSJ

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A push by Malaysia’s top law-enforcement official to use a British colonial-era punishment on people who reveal state secrets is dividing the government and sparking concerns in civil society.

Malaysia already administers the punishment—caning—to thousands of people a year who are convicted of crimes such as drug trafficking, rape, robbery and firearms possession. Human-rights groups and others deplore the practice, in which prisoners are whipped with a rattan stick, as inhumane. The government says it reduces recidivism; it hasn’t provided statistics to support that.

Now, as Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration tries to contain a graft scandal at a state investment fund, his attorney general is proposing to also use caning on people found guilty of violating Malaysia’s Official Secrets Act. Under the act, officials can declare any document or information to be secret, restricted or classified. The government has said it suspects secret documents related to the investment fund were leaked. Read more

Government should embrace the Internet, not impose more restrictions to stifle news portals and blogs ― Lawyers for Liberty

Source: The Malay Mail Online

MARCH 23 ― Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s proposal for online news portals and political blogs to be registered with the government, thus effectively restricting further the ever-shrinking democratic space in the country.

The fact that Minister Salleh Said Keruak distinguishes between political and non-political blogs for registration is extremely telling that the real purpose for the registration is to quell critical and dissenting news and views against the government.

We also note with extreme concern that such underhanded tactics are not new, as in the recent past, The Edge, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report and other independent press and blogs had been targeted with investigations, arrests or blocks on the Internet while pro-government press like Utusan Malaysia and blogs have been allowed to publish freely.

There are no good and valid reasons for registering news websites and blogs other than an attempt to control news and information critical of the government. Such behaviour is undemocratic, a grave abuse of power and in breach of the ‘no-Internet-censorship’ policy which is protected in both the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees. Read more

The press has become too free for the government of Malaysia – Jahabar Sadiq

Source: The Guardian

BY JAHABAR SADIQ

The news portal The Malaysian Insider went offline on the first minute of 15 March 2016 – the Ides of March. With that, 59 staffers, including me, lost our jobs. And Malaysia lost another source of independent news.

But it came nearly three weeks after the internet regulator – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – issued a block order against us over a report that claimed the local anti-graft agency had sufficient evidence of a criminal charge against the prime minister Najib Razak, although the country’s attorney-general had cleared him of wrongdoing.

The anti-graft investigations began last July after the Wall Street Journal revealed that nearly US$700m had been found in the prime minister’s bank accounts. Read more

Democracy fades in Malaysia and Turkey as leaders crack down

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

It’s an unfortunate fact that there are very few successful, secular democracies among Muslim-majority nations. Sadly, two of this rare breed are now in the process of failing.

If Malaysia and Turkey continue sliding towards authoritarianism, it will put democracies in the Islamic world on the list of endangered species. And they are sliding. In the past 10 days, the governments in both countries shut down media outlets that dared report unflattering facts about their leaders.

And when peaceful protesters marched on the weekend to object to the shutdown of Turkey’s biggest opposition newspaper, Zaman, the police turned water cannon and tear gas on them.

<i>Illustration: John Shakespeare.</i>

Illustration: John Shakespeare.

In Malaysia it was the country’s most popular news website, The Malaysian Insider or TMI, that was blocked by the government. The next day Prime Minister Najib Razak tried to justify the blatant censorship by writing that it was “unhealthy journalism” to have news portals that were “constructing their own version of ‘reality'”.

It’s a sure sign of the dictator’s mindset – only one version of reality may be allowed to exist, and that’s the version officially sanctioned by the ruler. Read more