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Dark clouds loom as messengers punished

Malaysiakini
Published:  |  Modified:

The media as the Fourth Estate serves as an indispensable pillar in a democratic nation. It has the sacrosanct task of monitoring those in the seat of power to ensure that the people and their rights are safeguarded.

 

To use a draconian legislation to silence or punish the media is an act that is detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

 

October 1987.

 

That was the last time a major mainstream newspaper was shut down for publishing dissenting views.

 

The Star - labelled as ‘Suara Tunku Abdul Rahman’ by certain pro-government forces - was among the dailies suspended as part of Operation Lallang in a bid to silence detractors of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Over 100 activists, politicians and intellectuals were incarcerated without trial.

 

Now, twenty-eight years later, The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily - both part of The Edge Media Group - have been suspended for three months. This comes hot on the heels of the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission blocking access to whistleblower website Sarawak Report .

 

Mahathir is now raising the alarm on the alleged wrongdoings of the country's top man. But Najib Abdul Razak would probably laugh it off while inviting the former premier to take a good look in the mirror.

 

Ironically, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is now BN strategic communications director, had criticised DAP statesman Lim Kit Siang for “shooting the messenger”. Perhaps Abdul Rahman should also school Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on this.

 

Alas, we have to live with such ironies under the 1Malaysian sky.

 

The suspension today of The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily by the Home Ministry is an outrage, unwarranted and unjustifiable. It is a case of punishing the messengers rather than the criminals. 

 

At the heart of the attack against The Edge and Sarawak Report is the matter of whether their reporting on the 1MDB scandal is true or false.

 

If based on the evidence they have, public funds have indeed been siphoned away to serve private and political interests.

 

If indeed these media companies had fabricated evidence in a bid to topple an elected government, they can be charged with publishing false news. The matter would then go to court, where surely 1MDB, banks and the parties involved can produce conclusive evidence of fabrication.

 

The Edge has handed over all the documents it obtained from former PetroSaudi International executive Xavier Andre Justo to the authorities.  Till today, neither 1MDB nor the government is able to back up their claims of tampering, nor have the authorities charged The Edge with any other offence.

 

For a leadership that has nothing to hide, silencing the media does nothing for its credibility. Instead, this suspension sends an indelible message to Malaysians that the government has indeed something big to hide.

 

Malaysiakini calls on the government to immediately lift the suspension of The Edge and the blocking of Sarawak Report . It must allow the media to do its job to hold power to account.

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