WAMI: Malaysia’s shameful ranking amongst the World’s bottom 30% in Press Freedom

WAMI Press Statement – May 1, 2008

Malaysia’s shameful ranking amongst the World’s bottom 30% in Press Freedom

Malaysia has for four consecutive years ranked amongst the world’s bottom 30% countries in respecting press freedom, as revealed in the Freedom House’s Global Press Freedom Rankings released by on April 29.

Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) stresses that media freedom must be made amongst the top priority in the post-March 8 democratization agenda.

A road map and a time table for media law reform must be decided through dialogues and consultations involving the Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Rakyat and the Civil Society. Institutionally, a parliamentary select committee will be the best vehicle for such deliberation.

WAMI reminds Malaysians that Malaysia has constantly stayed at the bottom 30% of the world’s nations surveyed since the Freedom House released its full data. (see Table)

Freedom House’s Global Press Freedom Ranking
Year Total Nations Malaysia‘s ranking Bottom

2008

195

141

28.21%

2007

195

150

23.59%

2006

195

141

28.21%

2005

194

151

22.68%

In Asia, Malaysia is constantly behind our poorer neighbours like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, let alone richer democracies like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Ironically, such ranking emerged despite Malaysia voted in 2004 a prime minister who pledged “listening to the truth” with a 64% electoral mandate and a 91% parliamentary majority.

If Dr Mahathir had often made it to the world’s top list of press freedom’s enemies, PM Abdullah Badawi must make it his personal mission and legacy to free the press in Malaysia.

Media must come now as his next target of reform after the judiciary and Anti-Corruption Agency. In fact, no anti-graft campaign can be successful when the press is the lapdog rather than the watchdog of the government.

WAMI calls upon the Prime Minister to announce the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee and the plan to enact a Freedom of Information Act, the calls by 37 civil society groups on the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD, May 3) 2006.

Such announcement would be the best WPFD present for this year.

The media law reform must remove the threat to journalists and the barriers of entry in media industry laid by the draconian Printing Presses and Publications Act (which has the Tamil daily Makkal Ossai as its latest victim), Internal Security Act, Sedition Act and Official Secrets Act.

Equally important is the need of anti-monopoly regulations to curb concentration of media ownership, both within and cross media.

The dual listing on April 30 in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur of Media Chinese International Ltd serves as a reminder to the dual threat to press freedom of political control and business monopoly in Malaysia.

The merged entity of Sin Chew Media Corp Bhd and Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd with Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Enterprise Corp Ltd owes much of its control of Malaysia’s Chinese daily market to the restriction on publication permit and the 2001 politically-orchestrated takeover of Nanyang Press by Sin Chew’s collaborator, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a member of the ruling coalition.

Issued by

Wong Chin Huat

Chair, Writer Alliance for Media Independence

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