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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Malaysian press freedom ‘not free’, in world’s bottom third


Malaysia retained its ‘not free’ status and bottom third ranking under international watchdog Freedom House 2016 report on press freedom which was released today.
Based on the backdrop of media crackdowns and shutdowns last year, Malaysia’s global ranking dropped seven notches to 149, out of 199 countries surveyed.
Its score went from 65 points in the previous year to 67, which is a two-point drop, as a zero is the best score and 100 the worst.
All these against a backdrop of declining global press freedom scores which Freedom House said went to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015.
A total of 33 percent - 66 out of 199 countries surveyed - were ranked as being ‘not free’; 36 percent or 71 countries ‘partially free’; and 31 percent or 62 countries ‘free’.
Within the Asia Pacific region, Malaysia tied with Singapore at number 31 out of 40 countries.
North Korea scored 97, the lowest in the region while Palau - an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean - is tops with a score of 15.
“The government of Malaysia - on the defensive over a massive corruption scandal - made extensive use of sedition charges to tamp down dissent, in one case prosecuting a political cartoonist for a series of tweets,” stated the report in its analysis of regional trends.
“In all, at least 91 people were charged, arrested, or investigated under the sedition law during 2015,” the Freedom House report stated, citing figures from international rights group Amnesty International.
In comparison, Malaysia's ranking on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index went up a notch to 146 out of 180 countries.
‘Free press’ enjoyed by only 13pct
A key finding from the report attributed the general global decline to broader struggles for power as factors contributing to attempts to co-opt or silence the media.
This is a situation not unique to lesser developed countries as the report stated that even journalists in Europe, a region known to have much more open media environments, had faced unusual levels of pressure from terrorists and, to some extent, from their own governments.
A major incident recorded in the report was the murder of eight cartoonists and editors at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
In terms of media audience, the report said that only 13 percent out of the world’s 3.4 billion population enjoys a ‘free press’.
The report defined the group as people who live in countries where coverage of political news is robust; the safety of journalists is guaranteed; state intrusion in media affairs is minimal; and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
The varied threats to press freedom around the world are making it harder for media workers to do their jobs, and the public is increasingly deprived of unbiased information and in-depth reporting.
However, it also noted that journalists and bloggers have shown resilience in the face of growing challenges, often at great risk to their lives. -Mkini

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