Call on Suhakam to institute an inquiry into  the recent massive assault on press freedom which is a fundamental breach of human rights to freedom of opinion and expression

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday):  The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) should institute an inquiry into the recent massive assault on press freedom which is a fundamental breach of the human rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Under Section 12 of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Suhakam may, on its own volition or on a public complaint, inquire into human right violations.

The government has recently launched  a massive assault on press freedom, especially after the appointment of veteran journalist Senator Datuk Zainuddin Maidin as Information Ministry Parliamentary Secretary.

Probably inspired by the saying "It takes a thief to catch a thief", the appointment of a veteran journalist to a key post in the Information Ministry  is not to advise the government  on how to introduce a new information policy in line with Malaysia's commitment to an Information Society and K-Economy by loosening its stifling control of the mass media in the country, but to be the  hatchet-man to tighten further the fetters muzzling the press in the country as well as to venture into the new realm
of restricting or undermining online newspapers like Malaysiakini.

The recent massive assault against press freedom includes:

(i) to aid and abet in human rights violations, as  in the case of Parti Keadilan National Youth chief Ezam Mohamad Nor  without any prior police investigations based on the Mingguan Malaysia report that the Keadilan Youth leader had said that he was launching street demonstrations every day to topple the government which Ezam had denied.

(ii) to black out news of Opposition statements on the clashes in the various settlements fringing Old Klang Road in the past five days, and Opposition  proposals as how to immediately restore peace, calm and security for everyone, to the extent that Malaysians have to rely on foreign media like the CNN,  BBC and foreign agencies  for information about what is happening in the country.

(iii) to distort or suppress news about popular reactions to various national controversies, such as the mounting public  support of all races to the Save Damansara school campaign, to serve the agenda sometimes of the Barisan Nasional government but  at times  that of certain Barisan Nasional component party.

Suhakam should initiate on its own volition a full inquiry into the recent massive assault on press freedom, taking into consideration the damning report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression issued  in 1999 stating that freedom of opinion was curtailed systematically in Malaysia.

The Special Rapporteur stated that the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act were used to suppress or repress expression and curb peaceful assembly.

Suhakam must be seen by Malaysians to be relevant to their human rights concerns and not removed from the burning human rights issues of the day if it is to discharge its statutory responsibility to "protect and promote human rights in Malaysia" and retain public credibility for its work.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman