The Centre for Independent Journalism is a non-profit organisation promoting media independence and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
A media independence watchdog has expressed deep concern over the recent filing of an ex-parte application by Attorney-General Idrus Harun to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief, Steven Gan.
The application was over comments made on Malaysiakini’s website by the news portal’s readers.
The Federal Court yesterday granted leave for the contempt of court action to proceed.
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Wathshlah G Naidu expressed worry that the contempt of court proceedings against the news portal would lead to more instances of media censorship.
“This will affect the future of press freedom in Malaysia,” Watshlah said in a statement.
“Since the change of government at the federal level this February, we have already seen at least three journalists being harassed online or investigated by the police for the reports they produced,” she added.
One of the journalists in question was Tashny Sukumaran, a South China Morning Post reporter, who was quizzed by federal police for her tweets on the May 1 immigration raid at the Selangor Mansion in the capital.
Wathshlah said there were also threats against the online media, “unofficial media” being barred from covering press conferences and efforts by the state to define “fake news”.
“This is a shocking trend as it was only a few weeks ago that Malaysia went up 22 spots to rank 101st on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index,” she said.
Wathshlah said media freedom and freedom of expression and speech underpinned the fundamental right to seek and exchange ideas, opinions and information that would enable the public to form their own opinions.
Such freedoms should allow for dissenting or alternative positions, specifically on issues of public interests besides promoting good governance and holding the state to account, she added.
“A harm test must be administered to determine the legitimacy, necessity and proportionality before attacking these freedoms,” Wathshlah said.
“We stand in solidarity with Malaysiakini and call for media freedom and independence to be respected and protected in Malaysia by the state,” she said.