Prescribing press freedom in Malaysia

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Dr Mustafa K. Anuar would still like to believe that the earth is flat so that all the elements of social injustice, bigotry and tyranny on this earth can be pushed off the edge. On this supposedly flat surface, he is a Fellow at the Penang Institute. Pic form the MMO.

MAY 4 — The fact that Malaysia attained the 144th slot in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Press Freedom Ranking of 180 countries leaves a bad taste in the mouth for it obviously indicates Malaysia’s poor standing as far as press freedom and freedom of expression are concerned.

Clearly, this ranking is nothing to be joyous about. If anything, there’s a lot to be concerned about.

It does not come as a surprise though to many of us in the wake of what has happened in recent times when press freedom and other civil liberties encounter immense challenges from the powers-that-be.

Not too long ago, for instance, Malaysian journalists were banned from the Parliament’s lobby area by the Speaker of the otherwise august Dewan Rakyat, thereby preventing them from having direct access to information sought from politicians concerned.

This is the very place where vital issues confronting the nation are often discussed and debated, the results of which would have far-reaching implications on the general public.

And yet, ordinary Malaysians are deprived of such important information when journalists are prevented from seeking answers on their behalf within the lobby area.  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

A peep into moral policing — Dr. 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

OCT 12 — In an apparent frenzy to burnish Malaysia’s Islamic credentials, the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS) has recently resorted to modern communications technology to encourage Muslims to help police the morals of the Muslim community.

A mobile app – called “Hotline Jais” – that is available on Android devices enables members of the public to report suspected Shariah-related crimes, such as khalwat (close proximity) and “deviant Islamic teachings”, at a faster rate.

In other words, the kind of reporting that is supposedly driven by the spirit of amar makruf nahi mungkar (urging on what is good, and rejecting evil).

Such an innovation also means that JAIS is relying on vigilantes to help monitor – and catch – potential offenders of Shariah with members of the general public. Therein lies the rub. Read more

Why locking state information is dangerous to democracy – Mustafa K. Anuar

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY MUSTAFA K. ANUAR

OSA-222x300FEBRUARY 9 ― Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali’s desire, made public recently, to explore the possibility of further tightening the Official Secrets Act (OSA) ― to the point of jailing for life and caning whistleblowers and journalists who disseminate leaked information ― has certainly been taken seriously by concerned Malaysians as exemplified by the outrage rightly expressed by certain civil society groups.

Just to give a sense of how serious the AG is on this matter, he was quoted by Sin Chew Daily as saying: “I am not joking. If I have 90 per cent of evidence, I will charge the journalist, editor, assistant editor and editor-in-chief. I am serious, no kidding. We have had too many leaks.”

It is certainly no joke to inflict punitive measures against journalists who seek the truth from whistleblowers in a society that has spawned a culture of secrecy particularly within the government administration over the years. Incidentally, information leaks are indicative of a government that is less democratic and unduly secretive.

To be sure, concerned Malaysians appreciate the fact that certain sensitive state secrets must be put under lock and key because obviously to do otherwise may well put the country’s security and interests in jeopardy and vulnerable to foreign powers’ manipulation. Read more