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Campaign to support communication rights in Malaysia

Joint Action - Malaysia

Participants at IFEX general meeting call on prime minister to repeal Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984

(IFEX) - The following statement was issued at the IFEX General Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 19-24 February 2006, and is endorsed by the signatories below:

Campaign to support communications rights in Malaysia

Participants at the International Freedom of _Expression eXchange Clearing House General Meeting, held at the International Press Centre, Brussels, expressed their concern about the rapidly deteriorating media freedom situation in Malaysia.

Two newspapers have been suspended, with another newspaper currently under threat of suspension. Another newspaper forced two editors to resign in a successful attempt to placate politicians over a story on police abuse of power. In addition, five students are "being investigated", two for holding a press conference and three for distributing leaflets on alleged irregularities in campus elections. This is potentially a criminal offence under Malaysia's Universities and University Colleges Act.

This barrage against media freedom began at the end of 2005, when a local Chinese daily, "China Press", came under pressure following the publication of a story about a video clip of a woman doing squats in the nude in a police lock up. The newspaper reported that the woman was a Chinese national. The Government reacted by publicly apologizing to China.

Three weeks later, the newspaper was asked for an explanation as an inquiry found that the woman was Malay. Despite having carried an apology, "China Press" gave in to pressure and announced the resignation of the two editors. This coincided with the renewal of the paper's annual license under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

A columnist in another Chinese newspaper, "Oriental Daily", who commented on political pressure on "China Press", is also believed to have caused the ministry to issue a stern warning against them.

Malaysian media has also suffered due to the Danish cartoon controversy, which has led to the indefinite suspension of one newspaper, "Sarawak Tribune", a temporary suspension for two weeks of "Guangming Daily", and uncertainty for a major English daily, "New Straits Times".

Civil society groups are worried that the recent controversy has given the Government an excuse to stifle the media.

The undersigned participants at the IFEX general meeting call on the Malaysian Prime Minister, in his capacity as Internal Security Minister, to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and investigate threats against media freedom. As an interim measure, licenses to the affected publications should be restored.

The undersigned,

Arab Archives Institute (AAI), Jordan
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo.net)
ARTICLE 19, UK
Canadian Journalists for Free _Expression (CJFE)
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Nepal
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Philippines
Center For Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), Mexico
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA)
Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ)
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka
Freedom House, USA
Globe International, Mongolia
Index on Censorship, UK
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
IPS Communications Foundation (BIANET), Turkey
Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI), Azerbaijan
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse, de L'Edition et de la Création (OLPEC), Tunisia
PROBIDAD, El Salvador
Thai Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Press Freedom Committee
World Press Freedom Committee, USA

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