Provide access to information to all media organisations, CIJ tells govt
September 28, 2020
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has urged the government to provide access to information for all media organisations, rather than to government media agencies only.
CIJ made the call today in conjunction with the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
Its executive director, Wathshlah G Naidu, said in a statement that in the last few months, CIJ had observed a shrinking of spaces for accessing information and media reporting in Malaysia on the basis of Covid-19.
“For example, access to certain press conferences by ministers providing Covid-19 related updates is limited to just the “official media”, most notably the regular press conferences on Covid-19 updates by Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
“On June 26, 2020, Boo Su-Lyn, the editor-in-chief of health news portal CodeBlue, was questioned by the police over CodeBlue reports quoting the declassified findings of an independent inquiry committee into the 2016 fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah.
“Boo is being investigated under Section 203A of the Penal Code, which criminalises the disclosure of information,” Wathshlah said.
She went on to cite these scenarios as “deeply troubling”.
“For a start, the public has a right to know what transpired and be able to form their own opinion based on multiple sources of information.
“Second, any censorship and control of media platforms by the government will create an information vacuum.
‘Third, this trend of restricting and allowing access to only government media agencies creates a situation that only one-sided news or perception will be available to the public.
“Furthermore, any limitation or barriers to access to information impacts transparency, and thus impedes rule of law and good governance,” she said.
Wathshlah expressed hope for the government to continue the previous government’s commitment to repeal the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and to enact a Right to Information law.
“It is time to replace the culture of secrecy at the federal level with a culture of openness to meet the growing public demands for transparency and accountability at all levels of governance,” she said.