Malaysian news portals blocked ahead of elections – prompting press freedom debate

Malaysian news portals UtusanTV and MalaysiaNews were shut before the election due to breaking national legislation.

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Authorities shut Malaysian news portals UtusanTV and MalaysiaNov before the election for breaking national legislation. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) ordered website restrictions for Internet Service Providers (ISP). Data from the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found was blocked from 7 August, and that’s not the first time that news portals have been barred under Anwar Ibrahim’s new regime. MalaysiaNews also blocked four ISPs from 28 to 30 June, although management was not notified of the restriction before the election.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) oppose media censorship and urge the government to preserve press freedom. Critics say the shutdown of MalaysiaNov and UtusanTV is reminiscent of earlier government censorship.

NUJM stresses the need for a transparent complaints procedure and a media council in the country and demands that be unblocked immediately. The International Federation of Journalists highlights the significance of access to information for the elections, urging Malaysian authorities to end blocking news websites, enable news broadcasts, and respect press freedom.

Why does this matter?

The shutdown of news portals UtusanTV and MalaysiaNov raises concerns about Malaysia’s commitment to open and transparent discourse. The IFJ and NUJM oppose these actions, emphasising the importance of preserving a free press and access to information for fair democratic processes. This situation reminds us of past government censorship practices and highlights the need for transparent procedures, media councils, and upholding the fundamental right to freedom of the press.