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Government pressures newspaper to suspend editor over news report

(CIJ/IFEX) - The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) condemns the suspension of the editor of the "China Press" at the behest of the Ministry of Home Affairs after publishing a report that the Inspector General-Police (IGP) has resigned.

According to online news site Malaysiakini on 19 March 2010, the Ministry asked for the "China Press" to "decide on the disciplinary action to be taken against its editor-in-chief", after which the "China Press" decided to suspend the editor-in-chief Teoh Yong Khoon. "China Press" was issued a show-cause letter on 13 March for alleging that the IGP, Musa Hassan, had tendered a resignation letter. Although initially both the IGP and the Home Minister denied this, the Minister later confirmed that he will not renew the contract of the IGP which is due to expire in September. Nevertheless, "China Press" had to publish a front page apology over the report on 19 March.

The Ministry's intimidation of the press sends the message that it does not encourage public scrutiny on the police institution which comes under its purview. While details in the report have been disputed by the Minister and the IGP, the report in its essence was accurate and therefore does not warrant any redress more severe than the publication of a correction. The Ministry's punishment sends yet another chilling message to editors about reporting on high ranking government officials.

"The Star" has also recently received a show-cause letter for its commentary on shari'ah law and now the "China Press" is being intimidated as well. This demonstrates that the Ministry is using the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) to restrict legitimate discourse and accurate information, contrary to the Minister's claim of defence of journalism ethics.

CIJ calls on the Ministry to retract its directive on the suspension of the "China Press" editor. More importantly, the government should enable an environment of free press by repealing the licensing provision in the PPPA that has been used to intimidate the media.

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