Press freedom in the country is facing escalating attacks: Amnesty International

PETALING JAYA: Press freedom in the country is facing escalating attacks according to Amnesty International Malaysia.

Following the recent charge of Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan and sister company KiniTV, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director K. Shamini Darshni said the act of charging members of the press in the course of their duties, while acting as a check and balance to the Malaysian government, sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom.

"In recent months, there has been a significant increase in the use of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act to crack down on dissent in the digital realm and on social media.

"It has become more evident that the authorities have turned their attention to policing the internet," she said in relation to the blocking of whistleblower portal Sarawak Report and now-defunct news portal The Malaysian Insider.

Saying that the decline reflected the difficult terrain journalists are made to endure, Shamini urged the government to create an environment that protects media freedom and end all reprisals against journalists.

"Malaysian journalists continue to face reprisals and restrictions in the course of their work. Harassment against the media must stop. The government must end its criminalisation of media personnel who are merely exercising their duty as journalists," she added.

Her response came after Gan was charged under Section 244(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) which held him responsible as a director of KiniTV.

While KiniTV was charged under Section 233(1)(a) for improper use of network facilities or services with intention to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.

The charges were over a video publication of a press conference by former Umno leader Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan who was critical of Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.