New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to put pressure on the Malaysian government after Putrajaya, in an unprecedented move yesterday, censored a popular online news portal.
"By blocking The Malaysian Insider ( TMI ), the Malaysian government has engaged in a blatant and outrageous breach of freedom of the press that increases fears about Malaysia’s faltering commitment to human rights and democratic principles.
"The US, European Union and other governments need to intervene now to pressure Malaysia’s leaders to move away from media policies that one would expect to see in a one-party dictatorship like Vietnam rather than a state that claims to be a modern, multi-party democracy," said HRW deputy director Phil Robertson ( photo ).
Robertson said there was no doubt that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his government were tightening the noose of censorship around the necks of Malaysia's vibrant online news portals.
"Apparently, Najib is willing to sacrifice Malaysia’s prior respect for freedom of online expression if it means he can successfully stifle critical reporting about his governments’ policies.
"Human Rights Watch hopes that the blocking of The Malaysian Insider will not succeed in its obvious secondary objective to intimidate other online news reporting in Malaysia," he said.
Robertson urged Putrajaya to immediately lift the block on TMI and issue an apology.
Yesterday, Internet users on Celcom and UniFi complained they were unable to access TMI and were instead greeted with a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) notice.
The notice said the website was blocked as it had 'violated' Malaysian laws
The MCMC in a statement later in the day confirmed the block imposed on TMI , saying it had violated Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act related to the misuse of network facilities.
The agency did not provide details.