Malaysia’s world press freedom leapt due to BN’s downfall

Malaysia’s world press freedom leapt due to BN’s downfall

PUCHONG: Reporters Without Borders ranked Malaysia at the 123rd spot in the World Press Freedom Index. It is 22 spots higher than the ranking Malaysia received previously. This rise was attributed to the fall of the BN regime.

“Press freedom is receiving breath of fresh air in Malaysia after Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition suffered a surprising defeat in the May 2019 general elections — its first defeat in modern Malaysian history.

Journalists and media outlets that had been blacklisted, such as the cartoonist Zunar and the Sarawak Report investigative news website, have been able to resume working without fear of harassment.

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The general environment for journalists is much more relaxed, self-censorship has declined dramatically and the print media are now offering a fuller and more balanced range of viewpoints including support for the new ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and support for the old ruling coalition, now in opposition.

RSF also noted while the Mahathir administration moved to undo the Anti Fake News Act, it has been slow in undoing draconian laws that constricts press freedom.

“Mahathir has kept his promise to repeal the Orwellian provisions of the anti-fake news law adopted by the outgoing government.

“However, the authorities still have a draconian legislative arsenal with which to suppress media freedom, an arsenal that includes the 1948 Sedition Act, the 1972 Official Secrets Act and the 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act. Under these laws, which need a complete overhaul, the authorities have strict control over publication licences and journalists can be sentenced to 20 years in prison on sedition charges.

“They pose a constant threat to media personnel, who still cannot express themselves with complete freedom, despite all the progress.”

In terms of Southeast Asia, Malaysia ranked the second best at 123. Timor Leste was highest at 84.

The closest is Indonesia at 124th rank. This is followed by Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar at 134, 136 and 138th ranks respectively.

Cambodia is ranked at the 143rd spot. Singapore and Brunei are at the 151st and 152nd spot.

Vietnam is ranked at 176 and Laos is at the bottom at 171st spot.

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