KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — A coalition of journalist groups are planning a rally this August 8, as a show of solidarity after Putrajaya ordered a three-month suspension of two local business publications over their reportage of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fiasco.
The coalition said the suspension of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily is an attack on press freedom and runs contrary to the federal government’s promise in 2012 to unshackle the media as part of its reform agenda.
We take the stand that there are existing legal recourses to be pursued in any dispute over reports, without resorting to an archaic law which has long been abused to clamp down on the media,” the coalition said in a statement.
“There may be ethical debates surrounding The Edge Media Group’s methods of obtaining information which led to an expose on the operations of state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad, but this does not merit the government’s suspension orders.
“Thus, we urge all media organisations, regardless of language or stream, to stand in solidarity against the government’s latest crackdown under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984,” the statement added.
The groups in the coalition include Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm), the Institute of Journalists (IoJ), Reporter Sans Frontiers (RSF), Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia.
The proposed August 8 rally will be the culmination of a series of “public solidarity events”, starting with a media solidarity gathering at The Edge’s office in Mutiara Damansara on July 31 at 3pm.
The coalition also asks members of the media to sign in as #AtTheEdge instead of their names at the registration desk for news conferences and media events as a show of support for their colleagues in the two publications.
Aside from demanding an immediate removal of the suspension, the coalition also urged the government to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Official Secrets Act and Sedition Act, which it says are “laws which have been abused to stifle freedom of press and expression in Malaysia.”
Yesterday, the publisher of The Edge Media Group announced that the Home Ministry has suspended the printing permits of its two flagship publications for three months starting next Monday, with a possible revocation of the licences if it does not comply.
Citing a Home Ministry letter, he said the ministry stated that the two publications’ reporting of 1MDB were “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.
Besides The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly, the media group also operates four online outlets.