EU, Norwegian, Swiss envoys add voices to concern over court decision

Modified 20 Feb 2021, 5:30 am

European Union Ambassadors resident in Malaysia together with the ambassadors of Norway and Switzerland are the latest to express their fears that yesterday's contempt of court judgment against Malaysiakini and the resulting RM500,000 fine represent a blow against freedom of the press in this country.

"While fully recognising the independence and the dignity of the judiciary, we are concerned by the Federal Court's decision against Malaysiakini and the impact it can have on press freedom in Malaysia.

"Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies. Media are crucial for debate, transparency and accountability," read the brief statement.

Yesterday, the Embassy of the United States said it was concerned by the Federal Court's decision and the impact it will have on press freedom in Malaysia.

"Freedom of expression, including for members of the press and the general public, is fundamental for public discourse and democratic principles that support accountability and good governance," it said.

British High Commissioner Charles Hay and Acting Canadian High Commissioner Esther Van Nes have also said in a joint statement that media freedom is important to all societies and the people must be allowed to discuss issues freely.

"Media freedom is of fundamental importance to the security, prosperity and wellbeing of all societies. People must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely," they said.

It is understood that foreign missions are keeping an eye on attempts to curb media freedom now that the administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has assumed emergency powers to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The news of the verdict has also been carried in leading wire services such as Reuters, as well as major global news outlets like the BBC, The Guardian, ABC News, The New York Times, Al Jazeera and many others.

Malaysiakini was fined RM500,000 for contempt of court by the Federal Court in relation to the news portal's readers' comments.

Contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan were initiated by Attorney-General Idrus Harun over comments left by readers on the news website.

Idrus argued that the two respondents had scandalised the court by facilitating five readers' comments on an article dated June 9 titled “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1”.

The 6-1 majority decision cannot be appealed. The Federal Court did not convict Gan.

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