The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has blocked UK-based independent news website Sarawak Report in relation to the investigation on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which recently came into the limelight for alleged illegal money transfers to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“We have proceeded with limiting the access to the site,” said MCMC Strategic Communications senior director Sheikh Raffie Abdul Rahman to media. “We have issued the instructions to all service providers.”
“The MCMC decided to block access to a website that could disrupt the stability of the country, that is The Sarawak Report, because it displays content that cannot be verified and that is currently under investigation, following information and complaints received from many people,” it said in a statement.
The move is provided for under Section 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, said MCMC.
Sarawak Report, and possibly other websites, are to be blocked temporarily until a special task force ends its investigations on 1MDB.
MCMC also issued a reminder to the Malaysian public not to disseminate information without verifying their authenticity.
“The contents could be fake. Such contents could cause affect the peace and cause national instability, disrupt public order and affect economic stability,” said MCMC.
Sarawak Report had issued a statement on its Facebook page condemning the block, calling the move “a blatant attempt to censor our exposures of major corruption through the development fund 1MDB, including the information that nearly US$700 million of 1MDB related money was paid into the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s personal AmBank account in KL just before the last election.”
“This information has already long been disseminated and backed up by other major global news organisations, so we can only assume that the MCMC is fearful that we are about to bring out further revelations.
They also plainly hope that a strong arm, anti-democratic media clamp-down will enable them to contain these issues on behalf of the Prime Minister, who seems unable to answer questions on the matter of these payments into his accounts and has been running away from journalists for weeks.”
The news website also called out the Malaysia government, saying that it did not have “the guts to take Sarawak Report formally to task over any factual detail of our revelations or to issue legal proceedings which would trigger a public examination of the evidence.”
The website owners vowed to continue in their investigation.
“Sarawak Report will not be impeded in any way by this action in bringing out future information as and when its investigations deliver further evidence.
This latest blow to media freedom only brings further discredit upon the present administration, who have proven unable to counter the evidence we have presented in any other way.”
Sarawak Report had earlier been involved in other corruption cases, including the alleged corruption by the governor of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, in the state’s logging industry.
Taib was accused and investigated for taking control of a state owned company though which his family have obtained a series of lucrative monopolies.