CIJ stands in solidarity with Malaysiakini over contempt proceedings
July 2, 2020
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is holding a watching brief to monitor the ongoing contempt of court proceedings initiated by Attorney-General Idrus Harun against Malaysiakini and its Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan over comments on its website by the news portal’s readers. The Federal Court today squashed Malaysiakini’s application for the contempt proceedings to be struck out. The contempt hearing is set to take place at the Federal Court in Putrajaya on 13 July.
As a media watchdog, we stand in solidarity with Malaysiakini and strongly condemn efforts by the State to intimidate and threaten media freedom and independence in Malaysia, instances of which have been on the rise since the change of government this year.
Attempting to punish a news portal over comments left by their readers – comments which were removed when requested by the police a few days later, according to Malaysiakini – is grossly disproportionate to any legitimate aim of protecting public order and a serious threat to freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression and speech underpins the fundamental right to seek and exchange ideas, opinions and information that would enable the public to form their own opinions and allow for dissenting or alternative positions, specifically on issues of public interests. Limits and restrictions on these freedoms must be clear and narrowly defined, and serve a well-defined public interest function. These restrictions must also meet the harm test to determine legitimacy, necessity and proportionality.
We call on the government to end and refrain from the continued use of intimidating measures to threaten and punish the media and silence opinions.
Instead of becoming the sole arbiter of truth and deciding what information can and cannot be in the public domain, the State should instead move ahead with the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council as a transparent and independent self-regulatory body for the industry.