7 July 2011

Joint action

Call for respect of free expression on eve of Bersih 2.0 rally


(SEAPA/IFEX) - In a letter to the prime minister, free expression advocates and media practitioners expressed alarm over recent arrests of nationals and foreigners on trumped-up charges for supporting calls for electoral reform.

5 July 2011

Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohammed Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Office of the Prime Minister
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA

His Excellency:

Bersih 2.0: Respect for Citizens' Rights to Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Advocates of press freedom and freedom of expression and media practitioners in Southeast Asia consider the scheduled Bersih 2.0 rally on 9 July 2011 as a milestone in Malaysians' attempts to exercise their rights to assemble and express themselves. Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution guarantee the rights of people to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, all crucial for a democratic society.

We are therefore alarmed at the series of events in the past week in which almost a hundred Malaysians and a handful of foreigners have been arrested and detained on what we consider as trumped-up charges for promoting and supporting civil society calls for electoral reforms.

These events contrast with your action in your first week in office in 2009 when you ordered the release of 13 people detained under the Internal Security Act and also removed the ban on two opposition newspapers. Such actions heralded well (at least at that time) your administration's apparent commitment to recognize the fundamental rights of Malaysians.

Malaysia's record in promoting and protecting press freedom and freedom of expression has been disappointing in the face of growing commitments by governments around the world to uphold these basic rights.

As freedom of expression advocates, we deplore several incidents in the past days that violate the Malaysian people's rights to freedom of expression. These could have been avoided had your administration taken steps to uphold press freedom and basic human rights, among them:

* The questioning of journalists by police under Article 112 (examination of witness) of the Malaysian Penal Code, over the 14 Bersih activists detained on 2 July in the northern state of Kedah. According to news reports, police confined the journalists at the premise where a rally was said to take place;

* The attack on three media workers in the rally at Penang on 1 July. A journalist, a photographer and a videographer were mauled by protesters believed to be members of UMNO, Perkasa and Suara Anak-Anak Mamak Pulau Pinang (the latter two are NGOs sanctioned by the ruling party UMNO). They staged the rally at the Penang Bridge in protest of Penang's Pakatan Rakyat state government and also in opposition to the Bersih 2.0 rally. One media worker was threatened by an UMNO member that he would be thrown off the bridge;

* The threat by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chief strategy officer Datuk Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi to shut down websites that posted content deemed offensive and a threat to national security, through the use of the Communications and Multimedia Act;

* The ridiculous order from the MCMC to private broadcasters not to mention the words "Bersih 2.0" and "July 9", yet at the same time broadcast messages discouraging people from attending the rally; and

* The MCMC's one-day seminar entitled 'Content Monitoring Seminar 2011' where it invited 22 electronic media and telecommunications operators at its auditorium in Cyberjaya when participants were reportedly advised by the MCMC to refer to the Bersih 2.0 rally as an "illegal gathering"; use their respective media to discourage their audience from attending it; and avoid publishing or uploading footages of possible police brutality but instead highlight the inconvenience the rally would cause to the public.

We believe that the Bersih 2.0 rally is a democratic exercise worthy of support of elected democratic governments. We expect your government to ensure that these rights are exercised. The authorities' move to suppress these rights, as well as rights to free and independent media coverage has only aggravated the situation and betrays your initial commitment to greater freedom of expression in Malaysia.

We urge you and your government to respect the rights of citizens to express their concerns over an important issue - electoral reforms; to protect citizens exercising the freedom of assembly; to reject all threats of and forms of violence against the rally participants and journalists; and to insure that the media is free from state control so that it can perform its role to inform citizens without fear or favour.

Respectfully,

NON-IFEX SIGNATORIES:



Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Malaysia

IFEX members working in this country 1

 
More from Malaysia
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Malaysia

    Several websites remain blocked for reporting on a billion dollar corruption scandal implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the publishing platform Medium

  • Malaysia HRW Report: Events of 2016

    Malaysia's human rights situation continued to deteriorate in 2016, with human rights defenders, activists, political opposition figures, and journalists facing harassment and politically motivated prosecution. Those criticising the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak or commenting on the government's handling of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal have been particular targets.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Malaysia

    Reporting on the alleged misuse of the 1MDB state investment fund sparked criminal defamation proceedings against at least four news outlets, and two others were temporarily suspended.

 
More from Asia & Pacific
  • TRUTH VS MISINFORMATION: THE COLLECTIVE PUSH BACK

    SOUTH ASIA PRESS FREEDOM REPORT 2018-2019

  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region


At this point, would publish cover: "Home page"
 
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.