MCMC’s blocking of Sarawak Report is crude and backward
20 July 2015
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) order to block Sarawak Report’s website, on the ground of ‘national stability’ for publishing ‘unverified’ news that were pending investigations.
Although MCMC does not refer to Sarawak Report’s series of exposés on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, the reason is clear enough as the website has been highly critical and instrumental in blowing the whistle on the massive scandal.
The ground stated by MCMC for blocking Sarawak Report is preposterous as all the authorities needed to do if there were such ‘unverified’ news is for them to publish explanations clarifying the issues rather than using unfair and undemocratic means to retaliate against the website.
We also note with extreme concern that although crude intimidation tactics are not new, as in the recent past, The Edge, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and other independent press had also been targeted, this is the first time, a news website (whether local or international) has been blocked for publishing legitimate news reports.
The authorities must be reminded that journalism is not a crime. Press freedom is an indispensable component of any modern and democratic society as it functions as a form of check and balance against government excesses. Such authoritarian behaviour unfortunately sends a chilling message to the press to self-censor on issues such as 1MDB or else they may invite retaliation.
It goes without saying that the attempt to silence Sarawak Report is also pointless as their exposés will continue to be reported by other press (as long as they are newsworthy) and can further be disseminated by social media.
We call upon the authorities to immediately revoke the order to block Sarawak Report as such a crude method can only backfire upon the authorities, revealing them as insecure and backward, unable to come to terms with the reality of the Internet and social media.
Lawyers for Liberty