Malaysia’s Press Freedom is Worse than Cambodia, Myanmar

SHAH ALAM, 3 May: The Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, said that Malaysia celebrates a bleak World Press Freedom Day 2014 with the 2014 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ranking Malaysia at a historic low of 147 out of 180 countries.

In 2014, Malaysia fared worse than Brunei (117), Thailand (130), Indonesia (130), Cambodia (132) and Myanmar (145).

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Lim said that press freedom is a fundamental human right enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Many countries with press freedom enjoy not only basic human rights but also a functioning democracy and economic prosperity.

“It is no accident that the country that respects press freedom the most also happens to be amongst the wealthiest and its citizens live with human dignity,” he said in Komtar today in conjunction with the World Press Freedom Day 2014.

He said that press freedom is threatened as much by authoritarian regimes that close down newspapers and detain reporters, as by media practitioners who abuse their power by publishing lies and refusing to respect the principle of a right of reply.

Previously, The Freedom House’s Press Freedom Report for the year 2013 also categorized Malaysia as “not free”.

In the report, Malaysia also received a “downward trend arrow” due to “rampant electoral fraud and structural obstacles to block the opposition from winning power”.

Thus, Lim said that clearly these are institutional issues where the government deliberately chokes off press freedom to prevent any expose of abuses of power and corruption through draconian laws such as the Sedition Act, Printing Presses & Publication Act and the Official Secrets Act.

“However another stratagem is to demonise the opposition by publishing lies without fear of punishment or just simply refusing to give them the right of reply,” he said.

He is of the opinion that it is not easy to fight to abolish such draconian laws just as it is not easy to correct lies and uphold the right of reply.

“Whilst defamation actions may be necessary to differentiate lies from facts, the perquisites of rule of law and an independent judiciary must exist to successfully punish those who trade in falsehoods and slander,” he said.

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