KUALA LUMPUR, 4 Sept 2009: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has criticised the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) over its directive to Malaysiakini to take down video reports related to the protest against the relocation of a temple in Shah Alam.
CIJ executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said the government directive was unwarranted as it was an attempt to silence the messenger, in this case the media, from reporting the news.
She was referring to the letter sent to Malaysiakini by the MCMC directing it to remove two videos from its news site. If Malaysiakini doesn’t comply, it could possibly face charges that may result in hefty fines and imprisonment under Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
One video was of the 28 Aug 2009 protest where a cow’s head was used and violence threatened if a Hindu temple was relocated to Section 23 in Shah Alam. The other video was on the 2 Sept press conference by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, defending the protestors for their actions.
In the MCMC letter which is posted on Malaysiakini, monitoring and enforcement division acting senior director Abdul Halim Ahmad said the commission received many complaints on “several provocative and offensive videos” that were posted on Malaysiakini and YouTube. He added that the videos contained offensive contents with the intent to annoy “any person especially the Indians”.
“The MCMC is misguided as this is the role of the media — to raise public interest issues. The source of the problem is not the media airing the footage, but the protesters who used methods that were despicable to voice their protest. It is the organisers of the cow-head protest who should be targeted and not the media that reported on the matter,” Gayathry said in a statement today.
“This is a repeat of the [incident which saw the] arrest of Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under the Internal Security Act last September [because she] reported on a public speech by Penang Umno leader [Datuk] Ahmad Ismail, where the messenger is attacked for what a politician expresses in public,” she added.
Gayathry called on the MCMC to stop its harassment and leave the online media to report the news as it saw fit. “There is no irresponsible or unethical reporting involved in the videos and if the commission is serious about not wanting to fuel public sentiments, it should support civil society calls to reject any use or threat of violence and hatred,” she added.
Censorship on flimsy grounds
She also said the broadly-worded Communications and Multimedia Act allows for censorship to take place on flimsy grounds, citing the poorly-defined section that makes it a crime to “annoy” any person.
“The MCMC should be more discerning in assessing complaints it receives and understand better the role of the media as the fourth estate. If people feel upset by the videos, then they should be upset at any attempts of legitimising violence and hatred as a form of expression.
“The public has a right to be informed of what happens in society and the only way to mitigate any conflict is to present more fair and accurate information, not less.”
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