In a recent interview with Malaysiakini, a Malaysian alternative news site, Mr Anwar Ibrahim who was released from prison on Wednesday (May 16), has expressed his appreciation to Malaysiakini.
“At a time when we had massive restrictions, where the media was nothing but incessant propaganda, Malaysiakini was there,” Mr Anwar said.
“(I’m saying this) not because you (Malaysiakini) have been kind to me – you have been tough against me too – but as a pillar (of democracy), that is how an independent media should function.”
Mr Anwar added that credit should be given where it was due.
“I think the present government must give due recognition to the media who have played this role (as a watchdog) under very trying and difficult circumstances,” he said.
In fact, during his press conference with the media at his residence immediately after his release, Mr Anwar even thanked Malaysiakini publicly. “Terima kasih Malaysiakini. You have done a wonderful job,” he said after a Malaysiakini journalist stood up to ask him a question.
Over the past 18 years, Malaysiakini has covered Mr Anwar’s two sodomy trials, countless reformasi rallies, five general elections, and suffered half a dozen of police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raids.
Mr Anwar is the designated PM to take over from Dr Mahathir in one to two years’ time. At the moment, Mr Anwar has indicated that he intends to spend time with his family as well as going overseas to give lectures about Malaysia.
Singapore to legislate against “fake news”
Meanwhile, the Singapore government has up the ante by announcing its intention to legislate on the propagation of “fake news”.
Said international NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Even since the (Singapore) government announced its intention to legislate on fake news in the spring of 2017, journalists and bloggers have been pointing out that they can already be jailed for libel, for contempt of court, for being a ‘threat to national security’ or for ‘ill-will against religious or racial groups’ – vaguely worded offences that are often used to criminalize any criticism of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong or his government.”
“Given the many draconian laws that already encourage self-censorship, the last thing Singapore needs is a new law imposing more restrictions on freely reported news and information,” it added.
In 2016, RSF listed PM Lee as a predator of the freedom of media along with 34 other presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, torture or murder journalists, citing that his strategies in stifling media were to use SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). Which consists of bringing defamation suits or other legal actions against isolated journalists and bloggers who cannot easily defend themselves against politically powerful or wealthy plaintiffs, with the aim of deterring them and their colleagues from contributing to the public debate.
Singapore is currently ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.