On the media:
“I firmly believe that there is vital place…for a vibrant, free and informed media. If we are truly to build a democracy that is responsive to the needs of all the people, we need a media — both old and new — that is empowered to responsibly report what they see, without fear of consequence, and to hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve.”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in a speech delivered at the Malaysian Press Institute’s Press Night. He said responsible reporting included “looking more skeptically and critically” at claims from all sides and rumours. “When I talk about responsible reporting, I certainly do not mean the responsibility to take the side of the government,” he added. (Source: Policy, politics and the media, www.pmo.gov.my, 6 April 2009)
Three days later, the prime minister’s office barred Chinese-language online news portal Merdeka Review from covering the announcement of Najib’s new cabinet line-up. No reason was given for the ban. Merdeka Review submitted a protest letter on 10 April 2009. On 11 May, Merdeka Review reported that the prime minister’s press secretary Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad finally replied to their letter but did not explain why they were banned.
On 15 April 2009, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim threatened to use the Communications and Multimedia Act against bloggers who wrote “untruths” and touched on personal matters.
Additionally, Merdeka Review reported on 15 May 2009 that seven “sensitive” matters have been banned from being discussed on air in RTM radio programmes to prevent “controversy”. The banned topics were opposition party politics, sex, race, language, religion, the monarchy, and morals related to current political developments.
On the ISA:
“When I took over the post of prime minister, I announced the release of 13 ISA detainees. I want to show that the government is acting based on the principles of justice and fairness, and respect for the law and civil liberties.”
Najib announced the release of the second batch of Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees on 8 May 2009, one day after the historic Perak assembly sitting. The prime minister freed the first batch of 13 ISA detainees when he assumed office on 3 April 2009. He also pledged to conduct a comprehensive review of the ISA. (Source: Releasing of ISA detainees proof government is fair, The Nut Graph, 8 May 2009)
However, it was reported on 27 May 2009 that suspected leader of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group, Mas Selamat Kastari, has been detained under the ISA for two years following his arrest on 8 May in Johor.
A month later, on 25 June 2009, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced what the government’s proposed amendments to the ISA would be. On the same day that this announcement was made, three suspected JI members were arrested under the ISA for allegedly trying to revive the outlawed organisation.
The government’s review of the ISA does not include removing the state’s power to detain without trial.
As of 25 June, Hishammuddin said there were 12 ISA detainees left in the Kamunting detention centre, comprising six Malaysians and six foreigners.
On police reform:
Despite several calls from civil society urging for police reform, Najib has remained mum on the subject so far.
Instead, de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced in Parliament on 30 June 2009 that the government rejected the proposal to set up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconducts Commission (IPCMC) because its powers were “too broad” and unconstitutional.
Naib & Co. (Part I)