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Concern over intimidation against Malaysian online news portal, civil society groups

3 May 2013 file photo of Malaysiakini office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 May 2013 file photo of Malaysiakini office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

This statement was originally published on CIJ's Facebook page on 8 November 2016.

We, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), are deeply concerned by recent developments pertaining to media freedom and freedom of expression in Malaysia. We deplore threats made by pro-establishment vigilante group 'Baju Merah' to "tear down" the office of online news portal Malaysiakini. The group clearly tried to act on their promise when it marched to the Malaysiakini office on Saturday, 5 November 2016.

While the Malaysiakini office was secured by the police on that day it remains that threats of violence against the media are real and escalating in Malaysia. The media is an integral part of democracy and must be protected from any attempt to prevent it from providing information to the public. This is not limited to securing media offices when groups like 'Baju Merah' are at the gates, but at all times including the platforms where the media publish and broadcast information.

Furthermore, we denounce the renewed bout of allegations regarding foreign interference in Malaysiakini and certain civil society organisations through the Open Society Foundation (OSF) funding. This very issue was first used a few years ago against civil society groups in an attempt to discredit and criminalise the Bersih movement. We wish to highlight that the debacle resulted in legal action where government-linked media New Straits Times was forced to issue an apology.

Reviving the issue today is but a desperate attempt to yet again derail the Bersih movement and demands for free and fair elections, and to mislead the public. We call on members of the public to be discerning of the information they receive regarding this matter.

We demand the government to fullfil their obligation to protect media freedom as well as every citizen's right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association as guaranteed in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

We further call on the UMNO and Barisan Nasional leadership to restrain the 'Baju Merah' group led by none other than their own UMNO Sungai Besar Division Chief, Jamal Md Yunos, and UMNO Youth Exco leader, Armand Azha Abu Hanifah from further violence against the media and members of civil society organisations.

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