Freedom of Expression in 2006: A review
The following is a chronological listings of Freedom of Expression violations that have occurred in 2006
1. Political interference in China Press on the grounds of unethical reporting
Using the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the Internal Security Ministry requested that Chinese-language daily China Press show cause why action should not be taken against them for an inaccurate report. Two editors resigned due to the action, which had the knock-on effect of intimidating other media from reporting on potential abuses of power by the police.
2. Raid on ‘Paul’s Place’ on New Year’s Eve
A punk music gig was raided on New Year’s Eve with 388 young people arrested. Initially, they were told that they were arrested for attending a ‘black metal’ concert. This was not illegal at the time. They were later told that they were being arrested for being at an unlicensed venue. However, people who were not in the venue were also arrested. The aftermath of the raid saw inaccurate and fanciful reporting on the gig, targeting a marginalised group.
3. Non-renewal of Oriental Daily News permit
Chinese daily Oriental Daily News had the renewal of its permit delayed. The permit was only given after several columnists had their columns stopped.
4. Non-renewal of Suara Keadilan permit
Opposition party organ Suara Keadilan has not received a permit to publish.
5.Indefinite suspension of Sarawak Tribune
The Sarawakian English-language newspaper was suspended indefinitely following a decision to publish the Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad.
6.Suspension of Guang Ming Daily
The afternoon edition of the Chinese-language daily was suspended for two weeks after publishing a photograph showing a placard depicting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
7. Suspension of Berita Petang
The Sarawakian Chinese-language daily was suspended following the publication of an allegedly seditious article.
8. Threats against other media for re-printing images containing images or references to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad
The New Straits Times English-language daily and State-owned free-to-air television channel TV2 were threatened with action over images related to the Danish cartoon issue.
9. Banning of Mak Yong performances in Kelantan
The Kelantan state government banned private as well as public performances of Mak Yong just three months after UNESCO classified it as world cultural heritage.
10. Revival of debate on a legislated media council
Repeated calls have been made for a legislated media council. In an already over-regulated system, this is merely one more mechanism of control.
11. Closure of KakiKino film club
The KakiKino club showed art films at the National Film Development Board (Finas). A member of the public complained that ‘pornography’ was being shown, and the club was closed.
12. Halting performance of Satu Kali
Performance art presentation Satu Kali was halted following a police report lodged by a single member of the audience.
13. Banning of Lelaki Komunis Terakhir
A semi-musical documentary/ travelogue based on the places important in the life of the Malayan Communist Party leader Chin Peng. This was banned following a series of attacks made by people who had not even watched the movie.
14. Threats against Tamil newspaper Makkal Osai
Following reports on a speech made by political leader Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, the Tamil-language daily Makkal Osai received threats of having its offices torched, had copies of its newspaper publicly burned and had a defamation suit threatened.
15. Police attack on MerdekaReview.com journalist
Police attacked a Chinese-language online journalist covering a peaceful demonstration. Lim Hong Siang was kicked by police, and threatened with confiscation of his camera, after identifying himself as a reporter.
16. Banning of 33 books under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
Eighteen books, primarily on religion, were banned for presenting a threat to ‘peace and harmony’ and a further 15 books were banned for pornographic content. The former included books on comparative religion, academic texts and a book on Kundalini yoga.
17. Closure of Chinese-language talk-back radio programme
A programme on State-owned station Ai FM was pulled. The last show included a discussion on controversial initiatives on Chinese-language education.
18. Banning forums on upholding the Constitution, organised by the Article 11 coalition
Forums on upholding the Constitutional right to freedom of religion were banned following threats and intimidation by members of the public who saw the forums as an attack on Islam and Malay privileges.
19. Banning media coverage of the forums on upholding the Constitution
A ban was issued on the coverage of the forums being organised by Article 11, and on issues of race and religion.
20. Threats made against the media by the Information Minister
Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin issued a strongly worded statement condemning some of the print media, and later reiterated the desire to control online media.
21. ‘Police permit’ required for DAP forum
Opposition party DAP had a forum on race relations cancelled, after the venue told them that they needed a police permit, in contravention to established practice.
22. Threat against Internet and sms users
The Prime Minister warned that bloggers and sms users can be arrested or investigated under the Sedition Act if found disseminating rumor and “malicious comments”.
23. Youth arrested for dressing like Black Metal fans
Twelve teenagers were detained for three hours by the police for dressing like Black Metal fans and were loitering at a tourist spot. The police said they knew the teenagers were not Black Metal fans.
24. Malaysiakini.com investigated by police
Police interrogated the independent news site because of its erroneous report alleging police involvement in former Prime Minister’s pepper-spray incident. Police claimed that the report is defamatory. Malaysiakini retracted the report within an hour after posting and ran an apology.
25. Elected representative reprimanded by Cabinet for commenting on alleged corruption
The Deputy Higher Education Minister Ong Tee Keat was reprimanded by the Cabinet after he made a comment in a dinner function on possible fund embezzlement by government officers, raised by one of the function’s participants. The Cabinet decided that Ong went against the directive disallowing minister or the deputy to comment on other ministry.
26. Think tank subjected to political pressure over an academic report disputing official figure, lead researcher quit in protest
The government refuted and criticized a report by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI), which claims bumiputra corporate equity ownership stand as high as 45%, contrary to government figure at 18.9%. ASLI later withdrew the report amidst heavy government criticism, causing lead researcher Dr Lim Teck Ghee to resign in protest.
27. Ruling party MCA sold newspaper to tycoon, making him owner of all large Chinese press
Tycoon Tiong Hiew King is made the owner of all large Chinese daily in the country, after MCA sold its stake in the money-losing Nanyang Daily to Tiong. Ownership concentration is expected to reduce diversity of opinion and encourages censorship of news unfavorable to the owner.
28. Suspension of Weekend Mail
The government suspended the weekend edition of the Malay Mail for running stories about sex among Malaysians. The articles were deemed distasteful and offending “Eastern values”.
29. Proposed ban on future live telecasts of the UMNO General Assembly
Following inflammatory speeches by delegates, the government declared that there should not be live telecasts of the UMNO General Assembly. The government’s action closes down room for public debate on the delegates’ conduct while permitting insensitive speeches by
officials to flourish behind closed doors.
30. Proposed merger between Kumpulan Utusan and NSTP
The government is supporting the proposal to merge its media company Kumpulan Utusan, which owns two Malay dailies and various magazines, with NSTP Berhad, which owns a few English and Malay dailies. NSTP is in turned owned by Media Prima, a government ally which controls the majority of free-to-air TV stations. If the merger is successful, UMNO, the largest ruling political party will be holding direct monopoly over most of the mainstream media.
31. Police threatened to use ISA against senders of false sms
The IGP threatened to arrest sms users who spread rumours under the ISA. This follows a demonstration started by an sms falsely alleging that a baptism of Muslims was taking place.
32. Arbitrary ban on foreign books
The Royal Customs restricted many imported titles arbitrarily, based on a directive by the Internal Security Ministry. Book dealers complained that they were prevented from importing books such as SpongeBob Square Pants cartoons and the award-winning Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.
33. Laws proposed to regulate Internet, especially bloggers.
The government may introduce laws to regulate the Internet and register bloggers, to prevent them from “disseminating disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies”.
34. Political interference in print and broadcast media to downplay toll hike issue
Editors of newspapers and TV stations were asked by Deputy Prime Minister and other ministers to downplay their reports on the toll hike in five major highways. They were also asked to help “manage the public outcry” expected as a result of the hike, which is between 20%-60%.
In addition to these violations, there also appear to have been media black-outs on various issues of public importance, including actions against interference in the media, demonstrations against fuel price hikes and statements by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The government also revealed in December that it constantly keeps tabs on media reporting by sending “advice” or warning to media.
Source : CIJ
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