The National Union of Journalists and human rights group Lawyers for Liberty have condemned Putrajaya for the indefinite suspension of newsweekly The Heat, saying its action contradicted the meaning of democracy.
NUJ president Chin Sung Chew said Malaysia as a democratic country should uphold the practice of media freedom.
“The media is the Fourth Estate and we have a responsibility to update the public, especially if there is any abuse or wrongdoing by the Government,” Chin told The Malaysian Insider.
“The public are entitled to know what is going on in the Government and we, as the media, are merely upholding our responsibility of informing the people.
“The Home Ministry, by suspending The Heat, has contradicted what a true democratic government would uphold and stand for,” he said commenting on the indefinite suspension of The Heat.
Lawyers for Liberty called Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a “false democrat” following the indefinite suspension of The Heat.
LFL co-founder and adviser Eric Paulsen said the slew of reforms which Najib had promised to implement on the eve of Merdeka Day in 2011 had all come to nothing.
“Najib had promised that Putrajaya would support press freedom by amending the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984,” Paulsen told The Malaysian Insider today.
“But the Home Ministry is still maintaining its authoritarian grip over the press, especially the print publication.”
Referring to the indefinite suspension of news weekly The Heat, Paulsen said this was a typical move by Najib’s administration, another flip-flop step.
“Every step Putrajaya takes forward, it is followed by two steps back,” Paulsen said.
He also drew attention to Najib’s promise to abolish preventive laws and the Internal Security Act 1960.
“Najib kept his word and abolished the Emergency Ordinance and ISA, but Putrajaya then took two steps back by amending the Prevention of Crime Act.”
“This is what I mean by Putrajaya and Najib constantly flip-flopping on reforms and human rights and press freedom.”
Paulsen also said that many individuals were still being arrested and charged under the Sedition Act 1948 despite Najib’s promise to do away with the archaic law
The Heat was suspended indefinitely by the Home Ministry in what is believed to be over a front-page article on Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s expenditure, sources said.
The weekly’s reporters were informed about the suspension during an editorial meeting yesterday.
The weekly, which focuses on politics and socio-economic issues, had been issued a show-cause letter last week.
Editor-in-chief David Lee Boon Siew had also been summoned to the Home Ministry in Putrajaya and told to tone down its reports.
The Malaysian Insider understands that although the show-cause letter did not specify the offending article, it was over a report entitled “All eyes on big spending PM Najib” published in its November 23 to 29 issue.
It is believed that HCK Media, the publisher, had been given 14 days to reply to the show-cause letter but the Home Ministry appears to have suspended the publication before it could reply to the letter.
PKR vice-president N. Surendran said the suspension of the news weekly was a personal act of vengeance by Najib and Rosmah as The Heat dared to criticise the Government over its spending.
The Padang Serai MP described the suspension as undemocratic, arbitrary and an assault on press freedom.
He said the suspension was a calculated move by Putrajaya to keep the media fearful, subservient and emasculated. – December 20, 2013.
BY LEE SHI-IAN The Malaysian Insider