Journalist groups pile the heat on Malaysian government

Journalist groups pile the heat on Malaysian government

PETALING JAYA - Journalist groups have condemned the Home Ministry's decision to indefinitely suspend weekly newspaper The Heat, saying that it went against democratic principles.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Chin Sung Chew said the Government should have been more open to criticism instead of reacting in such a manner.

"The ministry's action is totally contradictory to what a democratic government should uphold in a democratic society," he told The Star in a text message.

Chin said media practitioners played a role in society to monitor ruling governments for any wrongdoing, and that the public deserved the right to know and assess information given to them.

"It's not wise for the Government to take such action against the media," he said.

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Masjaliza Hamzah condemned the suspension of The Heat, calling it an attack on media freedom.

She said the suspension went against Section 13B of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which she said recognised the right of the publisher to be heard before a printing licence was revoked or suspended.

"The suspension shows that despite the amendments to the Act which is to check ministerial power, the Home Minister still has a firm choke hold over print media, and whether a publication is able to print or not is still at the pleasure of the Home Minister," said Masjaliza, who advised the Government to be serious about reform and repeal the Act.

In Bukit Mertajam, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng slammed the Federal Government for not doing what it preached, and added that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should explain the suspension.

"Their practices and their promises are different. Before the general election, they promised media freedom. Now, it's media restriction," Lim said at a press conference after opening the new factory of Suan Leong Hang (M) Sdn Bhd in the Bukit Minyak Industrial Area yesterday.

Lim described the suspension as "media freedom in Malaysia moving from bad to worse".

The Heat, which was first published last September, received the suspension after it was issued a show-cause letter by the Home Ministry last week.

It was given 14 days to reply to the show-cause letter, though it is still not known what the reasons for the suspension are.

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