Archive for category Media

A Malaysian Political Cartoonist on Facing His Fears, and Prison, for Art

By MIKE IVES
New York Times
NOV. 29, 2016

HONG KONG — When protesters disrupted an art exhibition by Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, a political cartoonist, at the George Town Literary Festival in Malaysia on Saturday, he assumed that the police would want his help identifying those responsible.

Instead, said Mr. Zulkiflee, who goes by the name Zunar, he was questioned by the police, detained for a day and informed that he was under investigation for producing cartoons that purportedly defamed Prime Minister Najib Razak.

It was not the first time Mr. Zulkiflee, who already faces nine charges of sedition and is barred from leaving the country, has courted trouble with his pen. His cartoons frequently target Mr. Najib, who is accused of taking millions of dollars from a state investment fund. Mr. Najib has faced widespread calls to resign, most recently at an anticorruption demonstration this month that drew tens of thousands in Kuala Lumpur, the capital.

In an interview, Mr. Zulkiflee, 54, discussed how social media has become an increasingly important channel for political dissent in Malaysia, and why he continues to use his art to investigate corruption and injustice without dwelling too much on the risks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysian editors charged with ‘intent to annoy’ after reporting on 1MDB

Oliver Holmes South-east Asia correspondent
Guardian
Friday 18 November 2016

Amnesty says hauling of Malaysiakini journalists before specially convened ‘cyber court’ is the latest move to stifle non-government media

The co-founders of an independent news website that has reported extensively on a corruption scandal involving Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, have been charged with offences including “intent to annoy”.

Facing up to one year in jail, the editors appeared before a recently set up “special cyber court” in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Human Rights Watch said the use of the court was part of a strategy aimed at “shutting down the vibrant and diverse online news environment.”

The charges relate to a video posted on the Malaysiakini website of sacked ruling party member Khairuddin Abu Hassan criticising the attorney general at a press conference for being close with cabinet ministers, which he argued would undermine his independence to investigate government corruption.

The Najib scandal emerged in July 2015 when media reports said investigators had found that hundreds of millions of dollars from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund was transferred into the prime minister’s bank accounts.

But attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali closed all domestic investigations in January, clearing Najib and saying $681m transferred into his personal bank account was a gift from the royal family in Saudi Arabia.

Malaysiakini’s editor-in-chief, Steven Gan, and co-founder, Premesh Chandran, have faced repeated harassment from Najib’s supporters, including when hundreds of protesters tried to forcibly shut down their offices earlier in November. Read the rest of this entry »

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In defence of Malaysiakini

Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysiakini
4 Nov 2016

In all its years functioning as a responsible media organisation, Malaysiakini has been doing the right thing. As a former journalist, I have watched its progress through the years and can vouch for its steadfastness in adhering to the ethics and principles of journalism.

But it is now being investigated for carrying out activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

This is totally absurd.

That it should be singled out to be persecuted by the Malaysian authorities is a testament of how deep into the mud of absurdity our country’s leaders are pushing Malaysia into.

Our leaders are going mad. Read the rest of this entry »

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In Malaysia, Humor Is No Laughing Matter

By Sarah Hucal
US News
Aug. 16, 2016

A political cartoonist’s court case raises questions about this Asian nation’s limits on expression.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – His office has been raided, his employees arrested and his books banned. His last publisher worked at night, unwilling to take a sample of his previous work, lest it be discovered. Yet political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known to most as Zunar, refuses to put down his pens, providing cartoon commentary on the Malaysian government.

Zunar has been charged with nine counts of Malaysia’s Sedition Act for social media posts criticizing the Federal Court’s decision to uphold the sodomy conviction of Anwar Ibrahim, the ruling party’s main political rival. Yet, despite facing a possible 43 years of jail time, the award-winning cartoonist continues to encourage what he says is the safest and most-powerful form of protest: laughter. “There’s no law to stop you from laughing,” points out the cartoonist during an interview in his office in the Malaysian capital.

The cover of his latest book portrays Prime Minister Najib Razak as a swashbuckling pirate. The prime minister is shown wielding a bag of 2.6 billion Malaysian ringgit, representing the $731 million the U.S. Justice Department alleges he received illicitly from the public investment fund he oversees.

Najib has denied wrongdoing and maintains the money was a gift from an unnamed Saudi donor. Read the rest of this entry »

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After resignation of Mustapha Kamil as NST group editor over 1MDB global scandal, who is the next journalist of mainstream media who will take a stand for integrity, truth, transparency and good governance?

After the resignation of Mustapha Kamil as New Straits Times group editor over the 1MDB global scandal at the end of last month, who is the next journalist of the mainstream media, whether print or electronic, who will take a stand for integrity, truth, transparency and good governance?

In his Facebook posting on May 31, Mustapha said he had received numerous private messages enquiring why he opted to leave New Straits Times early, and he related “the final moments” before he tendered my resignation “from a place I had until then treated as my second home”.

He wrote:

“On the morning of April 25th I walked into the CEO’s room with my resignation letter in hand. We sat and talked about my wish for a good one hour where naturally, the CEO enquired why I had wanted to do so.

“The CEO is a chartered accountant, a man who took his job very seriously, one who is adept with numbers and besides heading the company, someone whom I also considered a friend…

“There were two things I related to him that morning. First, just as he, a chartered accountant, would not hesitate to qualify a set of flawed accounts, signing each of them not only by his name, but also by the ethics enshrined within the professional body in which he was a member, I too take journalism ethics seriously.

“In my line of work, there is this element called the ‘truth discipline’. It is one that requires a journalist to be correct, right from the spelling of names of persons or places, to all the reports he must file. His responsibility is first to the truth, by which he must then guide society in navigating the path they had chosen.

“Second, I told him that I had weighed the situation for as long as I could but when an American newspaper, headquartered somewhere in Lower Manhattan in New York, wrote a story that got nominated for the coveted Pullitzer Prize, about an issue that happened right under my nose, I began to seriously search my conscience and asked myself why was I in journalism in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

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The story that is dividing Malaysia’s media

Listening Post | 19 Apr 2016
Al Jazeera

For much of the past year, the biggest news story in Malaysia has been the so-called ‘1MDB’ corruption scandal – a story of millions of dollars of public money allegedly funnelled into the bank accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The online investigative magazine Sarawak Report broke the story last June and many in the mainstream media, who have links to the government, were slow to follow up.

Only a small number of online outlets, such as Malaysiakini, followed the corruption investigation closely. But the government is keen to keep this story out of the public eye. The Listening Post spoke to Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan about the 1MDB scandal, the limitations of Malaysia’s mainstream media and the growing threat to online freedom of the press.

Steven Gan, editor-in-chief of the Malaysiakini website, speaks about the 1MDB scandal, and the growing threat to online freedom press [Will Yong/ Al Jazeera]

The Listening Post: The corruption scandal swirling around the prime minister has been a huge news story in Malaysia. What is the significance of this story? How much has it dominated the news and what impact is it having?
Read the rest of this entry »

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The Panama Papers’ Sprawling Web of Corruption

by The Editorial Board
New York Times
APRIL 5, 2016

The first reaction to the leaked documents dubbed the Panama Papers is simply awe at the scope of the trove and the ingenuity of the anonymous source who provided the press with 11.5 million documents — 2.6 terabytes of data — revealing in extraordinary detail how offshore bank accounts and tax havens are used by the world’s rich and powerful to conceal their wealth or avoid taxes.

Then comes the disgust. With more than 14,000 clients around the world and more than 214,000 offshore entities involved, Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm whose internal documents were exposed, piously insists it violated no laws or ethics. But the questions remain: How did all these politicians, dictators, criminals, billionaires and celebrities amass vast wealth and then benefit from elaborate webs of shell companies to disguise their identities and their assets? Would there have been no reckoning had the leak not occurred?

And then the core question: After these revelations, will anything change? Many formal denials and pledges of official investigations have been made. But to what degree do the law and public shaming still have dominion over this global elite? A public scarred by repeated revelations of corruption in government, sports and finance will demand to know. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Panama Papers: Here’s What We Know

by Liam Stack
New York Times
APRIL 4, 2016

A group of global news organizations published articles this week based on a trove of leaked confidential documents from a law firm in Panama. They exposed how some of the world’s most powerful people were said to have used offshore bank accounts to conceal their wealth or avoid taxes.

The documents, known as the “Panama Papers,” named international politicians, business leaders and celebrities in a web of unseemly financial transactions, according to the articles, and raised questions about corruption in the global financial system. Many of the figures named in the leak have denied in the strongest terms that they had broken any laws.

This explainer has been tracking significant developments resulting from the disclosures. Among them:

• The prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, resigned Tuesday.

• Gonzalo Delaveau Swett, the president of Transparency Chile, a branch of a global anti-corruption group, stepped down on Monday. Read the rest of this entry »

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How a Cryptic Message, ‘Interested in Data?,’ Led to the Panama Papers

by Nicola Clark
New York Times
APRIL 5, 2016

PARIS — The leak of millions of private financial documents linking scores of the world’s rich and powerful to a secretive Panamanian law firm peddling in shell companies and offshore bank accounts began more than a year ago with a cryptic message to a German newspaper from an anonymous whistle-blower.

“Hello, this is John Doe,” the source wrote to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich-based newspaper that had worked on several investigations into tax evasion and money-laundering scandals. “Interested in data?”

“We’re very interested,” replied Bastian Obermayer, a veteran of several investigations into financial scandals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s government silencing dissent

Ross Tapsell, ANU
East Asia Forum
30 March 2016

The current scandal embroiling Prime Minister Najib Razak has led the Malaysian government to crack down on press freedoms. But a restricted mainstream Malaysian media has not stopped the publishing online of information on the ongoing corruption scandal surrounding the Prime Minister and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). It remains to be seen whether Najib’s crackdown will secure his position or whether the media will help unseat him.

Earlier this year, Thomas Carothers from the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace described our current times as a ‘paradox’. Despite rapid and transformative advances in communications and information technology allowing for greater freedom of expression, the number of democracies today is basically no greater than it was at the start of the century. How has the ‘paradox’ unfolded in Malaysia?

Malaysia’s online media is not exempt from legal and state pressures, but former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision in 1996 not to regulate or censor the internet has allowed Malaysia’s online media to become a relatively more open and vibrant space.

Malaysia’s internet penetration rate is now at 68 per cent of the population and well over 80 per cent in urban areas. At the same time, newspaper circulation has decreased in government-owned newspapers such as Utusan Malaysia, The Star, The New Straits Times and Berita Harian. Print media circulation is dropping in most countries worldwide where internet penetration is rising. In Malaysia this has been fuelled by the reality that many Malaysians are tired of government-sponsored messages and are reaching for alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blocked Site’s Closure Underscores Malaysia’s Press Freedom Crisis

By Shawn W. Crispin
CPJ
March 22, 2016

Committee to Protect Journalists interviews Malaysian Insider editor

On March 14, The Malaysian Insider abruptly closed its editorial operations less than a month after the state media regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, blocked local access to its news site.

The Edge Media Group, owner of The Malaysian Insider, said in a statement that despite the site’s “courageous news reporting” it “did not receive enough commercial support to keep it going.” In a statement posted on The Malaysian Insider website, editor-in-chief Jahabar Sadiq confirmed the site was closed for commercial reasons.

The closure of the English language portal comes amid a government clampdown on independent media, particularly outlets that have critically covered the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal that has engulfed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration. In recent months, CPJ has documented how authorities have censored, harassed and threatened individual journalists and media outlets in retaliation for their critical coverage.

In an email interview, Sadiq spoke about the government pressure his now-shuttered site experienced and the broad deterioration in press freedom in Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Silencing the media in Malaysia

by Sonia Randhawa
New Mandala
16 MARCH 2016

Malaysia has a long history of cracking down on freedom of expression, writes Sonia Randhawa. But that won’t stop Malaysians from fighting back.

Over the past few weeks, the number of websites blocked in Malaysia has more than doubled, from 149 to 339, leaving the promises made about the country’s Multimedia Super Corridor lying in tatters.

Banned websites include The Malaysian Insider and the blogging platform Medium.com — apparently because of one article published on the 1MDB scandal. It’s akin to blocking YouTube because of one video.

It’s a long way from the attempts to foster a knowledge-based economy and modern state by 2020. If technology was meant to send Malaysians sprinting down the information superhighway, these recent moves represent dangerous obstacles to oncoming traffic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not business as usual in Malaysia

by Bridget Welsh
New Mandala
17 March 2016

Malaysian politics is entering new and rough terrain, writes Bridget Welsh. And the longer Najib stays in power the worse the country will be.

The formation of an alliance of former foes this month marks a turning point in Malaysia’s contemporary political history.

The Citizen’s Declaration opposing premier Najib Tun Razak through peaceful means and calling for political reform was signed by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and leaders of the 1999 reformasi movement who opposed his leadership, other senior leaders in the dominant party UMNO, civil society activists who mobilised the masses to protest the party’s rule, and long-standing traditional political party antagonists.

To get these men and women to sit down together reflected the depth of concern among prominent Malaysians, who opted to put their country’s future before its political past. At issue was not just the scandals plaguing the country, but its declining economic fortunes, exacerbated by declining revenues from oil and gas and poor governance.

In response, the government has intensified a crackdown on international and Malaysia’s media, strengthened the government’s relationship with conservative elements in the Islamist party PAS, and to portrayed the Declaration as a conspiracy to topple the government — measures that have only deepened the ongoing crisis of confidence with Najib Tun Razak.

In contrast to the cool portrayal of ‘business as usual’, Malaysian politics is entering new and rough terrain. The democratic slide will continue, as Najib fights growing opposition to and disappointment in his leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

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The press has become too free for the government of Malaysia

Jahabar Sadiq
editor, the Malaysian Insider
Guardian
Wednesday 16 March 2016

The threat of being accused of sedition and possible jail time has succeeded: people are shutting up and our independent news site has shut down

The news portal The Malaysian Insider went offline on the first minute of 15 March 2016 – the Ides of March. With that, 59 staffers, including me, lost our jobs. And Malaysia lost another source of independent news.

The closure was ostensibly due to an inability to secure a deal with potential suitors and to stem losses that rose to RM10m (US$2.4m) in the 20 months it was held by the Edge Media Group

But it came nearly three weeks after the internet regulator – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – issued a block order against us over a report that claimed the local anti-graft agency had sufficient evidence of a criminal charge against the prime minister Najib Razak, although the country’s attorney-general had cleared him of wrongdoing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib’s latest “achievements” – two self-inflicted “black eyes” on Ides of March

The sixth premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak has achieved another “first” – two self-inflicted “black eyes” on the Ides of March, 15th March 2016.

On this Ides of March, Malaysia became international news for a double event – the arrest and deportation of two Australian journalists from ABC “Four Corners” and the closure of the Internet news portal, The Malaysian Insider, as a result of government harassment against independent journalism and violation of the 20-year Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees of “No Internet Censorship”.

Malaysia was the subject of international news for these two events – not to Malaysia’s credit, but only to the national detriment in further undermining a plunging international reputation and image.

A sample of the adverse international reporting of the Malaysia’s first self-inflicted “black eye” on the arrest and deportation of the two ABC Australian journalists is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

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Four Corners reporter Linton Besser describes frightening detention in Malaysia

ABC reporter Linton Besser has revealed the frightening, frustrating, and at times “comical”, details of how he and cameraman Louie Eroglu came to be arrested, detained and threatened with charges while working on a Four Corners investigation in Malaysia.

Besser and Eroglu were arrested on Saturday after trying to question Prime Minister Najib Razak about a corruption scandal.

Yesterday they were threatened with charges, but the charges were abruptly dropped and the pair were escorted out of the country.

Now in Singapore, Besser shared his experience with PM’s Mark Colvin:

Colvin: Now you’ve been accused of crossing some lines (at the PM’s press conference) or breaking some rules. Were you aware of crossing any lines, any cordons, were there any rules that had been outlined to you that you broke?

Besser: Absolutely none, and that is why initially it was so disturbing when we were told we were going to be charged with a criminal offence, because as you’d expect, we have vision of this incident and it’s incontrovertible and there is absolutely no police cordon.

We have audio. There are no instructions given.

What did you ask him?

I asked him how he could explain or whether he could explain the hundreds of millions of dollars that have flowed into his personal bank accounts in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thank You, TMI!

By Martin Jalleh

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We are all The Malaysian Insider

Jahabar Sadiq
Malaysiakini
14 Mar 2016

COMMENT | The Malaysian Insider shuts down tonight. No words can adequately express the entire spectrum of feelings I have for this moment, and all the moments since late 2007 when a few of us thought of setting up a news portal.

I was in Reuters Television then, and had signed a contract to work in Jakarta as a senior producer. It would be good to look at Malaysia from afar, after having spent a decade as a television producer in Malaysia.

The job was never just about Malaysia, as it involved the region.

To cut a long story short, I came back in 2010 to run The Malaysian Insider and take care of my parents. and It has been a roller coaster ride focussed just on Malaysia.

There were no more exotic locales or tales from the wild side, I thought. This is Malaysia, easy enough to cover with predictable storylines. But Malaysia was changing and I had to keep up with the changes too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Another infamy chalked up in Najib’s seven-year premiership – the death of The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s seven-year reign as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia had added another casualty in its long list of infamies – the death of news portal The Malaysian Insider (TMI) from midnight.

Najib and his new Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak may feel proud of their “achievement” in the death of TMI, especially with the government blocking of the news portal last month, but to decent and thinking Malaysians, there can be no joy but immense sadness at the death of TMI, whose travails in the past eight years reflect the agonies and trials of Malaysia to become a normal democratic country where the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Merdeka Constitution in 1957 are living guarantees and not meaningless words.

Clearly those in power have forgotten the 20-year Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) guarantee of “No Internet Censorship” with the Malaysian government under Najib prepared to take Malaysia backwards to the dark age instead of forward to the Information Society.

Malaysians pay tribute to the TMI editor Jahabar Sadiq and all the TMI journalists for their contribution in bringing Malaysia towards the light of information and accountability, fighting the darkness of censorship and secrecy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Goodbye from The Malaysian Insider

BY JAHABAR SADIQ, EDITOR
The Malaysian Insider
14 March 2016

Goodbye readers from near and far, and those reading us in Malaysia despite the government block.

The Edge Media Group has decided to shut down The Malaysian Insider from midnight today, for commercial reasons. Perhaps it is fitting that we go offline at the start of the Ides of March.

I hope we have served you well since our first day of going live on February 25, 2008. And I hope others will continue to serve you in our absence.

We worked as impartial journalists to inform Malaysians and other readers so that they make informed decisions. We worked to make all voices heard in this marketplace of ideas.

But our work in The Malaysian Insider has now come to an end in a Malaysia that more than ever requires more clarity, transparency and information. Read the rest of this entry »

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