America Wants Malaysia To Respect Freedom Of Speech And Let Malaysians Say What They Want

The United States is "very concerned" about Malaysia's recent restrictions on the domestic and international reporting on Malaysian current affairs.

Cover image via Nazrul

The Malaysian Insider was banned to maintain peace, says Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A move to block access to The Malaysian Insider was done after "careful and due consideration" on the impact of the ban on the freedom of speech and freedom of press in Malaysia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday, 3 March.

It issued a rebuttal after a rare rebuke from the US State Department citing concern over media freedom in Malaysia. Washington had criticised recent actions to restrict access to domestic and international reporting on Malaysian current affairs and hinted that it could affect prospects for bilateral cooperation.

The Malaysian MFA said while Malaysia "upholds freedom of speech and right to information, such freedom and right must be exercised responsibly and with accountability".

"The Government of Malaysia has a responsibility to maintain peace, stability and harmony in the country and to safeguard the multiracial and multicultural values, norms and practices in Malaysia," it stated.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is also known as Wisma Putra added that it desires to maintain the progressive and dynamic relationship with the US for the mutual benefit of both countries

"Malaysia believes that the US shares and reciprocates this sentiment."

"Malaysia also believes that the bilateral ties could be further strengthened to greater heights through closer cooperation and better understanding of the domestic issues in Malaysia," it said.

This comment comes after the US today expressed concern at the state of affairs in Malaysia.

3 March: The United States has rebuked Malaysia for the recent media crackdown in the country. This subtle intervention comes one week after the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) issued a ban on English daily The Malaysian Insider on 25 February.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Image via Geopolitics

The United States on Wednesday voiced concern about Malaysia's media crackdown and suggested that the extent of press and Internet freedom in the Asian country could affect prospects for expanded bilateral cooperation.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington was "very concerned" by Malaysia's recent restrictions of access to reporting on its domestic current affairs, including last week's blocking of access to The Malaysian Insider, a news portal.

The Malaysian Insider has published reports on the scandal around 1Malaysia Development Berhad and investigations into $681 million deposited into Prime Minister Najib's personal accounts.

John Kirby, the U.S. State Department spokesman has expressed concerns about the Malaysian government's failure to provide due process to targeted media groups before actually blocking the access

He added that the United States is "further troubled" that the Malaysian government has initiated criminal investigations against the media regardless Malaysian or international media organisations. He also highlighted that the amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act "would further restrict online space."

"Of equal concern, many Malaysian social media users face charges for postings critical of the government and national leaders."

He also highlighted amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act "that would further restrict online space."

Kirby ended his statement by acknowledging the two nations' close ties, urging the Malaysian government to ensure that everyone can exercise their freedom of speech, even if it is on the Internet

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) and US President Barrack Obama attend a joint press conference at the Seri Perdana Building official residence in Putrajaya, Malaysia, 27 April 2014.

Image via Ahmad Yusni/EPA

"The United States and Malaysia have built a strong comprehensive partnership, through which we hope to expand our cooperation on a range of shared challenges."

"In that context, we urge the Government of Malaysia to ensure that all its laws, existing and future, fully respect freedom of expression, including the free flow of ideas on the Internet."

The government is not just clamping down on the media but even ordinary citizens. Just a few weeks ago, a woman was charged by the MCMC for a posting on Facebook that was said to be hurtful and offensive to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Image via Rappler

A building consultant, who uses the name "Ratu Naga" on her Facebook, was charged in the Sessions Court with insulting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the social website last October.

She was charged with knowingly using the network application, through the "Ratu Naga" Facebook profile, to make and initiate the transmission of offensive comments against Najib over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with the intent to annoy others.

Previously, MCMC blocked popular blog-publishing platform Medium after whistleblower site Sarawak Report used it as a way to reach the Malaysian readers with exposes on the 1MDB scandal:

The government also suspended The Edge for three months last July, for its coverage of 1MDB, claiming that it threatened public order and national security

PM Najib Razak is under immense pressure over allegations of funds deposited in his personal bank accounts, in relations to the alleged mismanagement of state fund 1MDB:

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