CIJ urges govt to empower media freedom

KUALA LUMPUR: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) today urged the government to empower media freedom in the country and push for the establishment of the Malaysian Media Council as a transparent and independent self-regulatory body for the industry.

In a statement here that was endorsed by 35 civil society organisations and several individuals, CIJ pointed out that the controversy that broke out following the Al Jazeera news channel airing the documentary “Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown”  was a case in point for this.

CIJ said it was of the view that ministers, heads of government agencies and the police have come out strongly against the documentary which is deemed to have portrayed the government negatively.

It said the government should have adopted measures aimed at providing the public with an explanation or call for an internal investigation into potential mismanagement of power or accountability. 

“Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown” is a documentary by Al Jazeera on what it perceived as Malaysia’s mistreatment of undocumented migrants during the height of the nation’s Movement Control Order (MCO) to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Various government leaders including Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin had defended Malaysia’s actions against undocumented migrants during the MCO, saying firm measures were needed to protect everyone’s lives, Malaysian and non-Malaysian.

They also expressed dissatisfaction, describing the documentary as biased and seen to be an attempt to paint Malaysia in a bad light.

It also did not go down well with  Malaysians. Thousands took to social media voicing outrage that Al Jazeera was deliberately trying to tarnish Malaysia’s image.

Since the government introduced the MCO on March 18, the country has successfully handled the pandemic.

Malaysia even turned the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) into a makeshift 604-patient-capacity hospital for COVID-19 treatment that catered especially for immigrants.

Today, only three new COVID-19 cases were reported in the country, bringing the total tally to 8,677 while recoveries numbered 8,486 (97.8%). The death toll has remained at 121 (1.39%).