Malaysian journalists asked to give statements on graft probe involving Najib

Malaysian journalists asked to give statements on graft probe involving Najib

Police recorded statements from the staff of news site The Malaysian Insider (TMI) yesterday over an article about the anti-corruption body's investigation involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The online news site has been blocked by the government's multimedia commission since Thursday evening.

The move came after an article on the site cited an anonymous source from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (Macc) oversight panel, who said the agency had enough evidence to charge Datuk Seri Najib over investigations into SRC International - a firm owned by the Finance Ministry.

"It is an unwarranted action and we don't see a reason for them to block a website," said TMI editor and chief executive Jahabar Sadiq.

In a blog post yesterday, Mr Najib condemned those who misuse the Internet to generate more hits, saying, "technology is abused to incite racism or religious intolerance".

"Keyboard warriors, cyber troopers and even news portals have made the online world their 'playground', constructing their own version of 'reality' with click bait headlines that serve their own agendas. This is an unhealthy practice of journalism," Mr Najib wrote.

On Thursday, hours after the TMI article was published, the Operations Review Panel, which acts as an adviser to Macc, issued a statement refuting the report.

The panel's chairman, Tan Sri Hamid Bugo, said the panel "did not, at any time, say that it had enough proof to charge Najib over SRC" or "that there is credible evidence to frame charges against Datuk Seri Najib Razak".

This is the second time in a year TMI has been called up by the police and asked to give a statement. In March last year, police arrested several TMI editors for sedition and recorded their statements over an article involving the monarchy.

TMI's lawyer Syahredzan Johan told The Straits Times that both the police and multimedia commission recorded statements from five TMI staff members. The blocking of the website was not brought up during questioning.

"We gave our full co-operation and we hope this is the end of it," Mr Syahredzan said, adding that the staff did not reveal the identity of their source to the authorities.

TMI is now inaccessible to those using a number of service providers, but it could still be accessed via alternative means, such as through a Wi-Fi connection or a mirror site.

Communications Minister Salleh Keruak said the site was blocked because the article could "cause confusion" among readers due to its contradictory nature.

Earlier yesterday, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, in a Twitter post, said the police department "will call upon the chief editor of TMI and investigate a report related to the Macc panel, which confused many people".

The move by the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission to block the site was criticised by media and rights groups.

Separately, opposition newspaper Selangorkini said it is under police investigation for an article headlined "More than 3,000 attend Himpunan 365 to free Anwar" because it was deemed political in nature.


This article was first published on February 27, 2016.
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