Wisma Putra defends ban on ‘The Malaysian Insider’

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PETALING JAYA: The Foreign Affairs Ministry has said access to The Malaysian Insider news site was blocked on Feb 25 “after careful and due consideration on the impact of such a ban on freedom of speech and freedom of press in Malaysia”.

In a statement issued tonight, Wisma Putra said Malaysia upheld freedom of speech and the right to information, but such freedom and right must be exercised with responsibility and accountability.

“The government has a responsibility to maintain peace, stability and harmony in the country and to safeguard the multiracial and multicultural values, norms and practices in Malaysia.” The statement was in response to the statement made by the US Department of State earlier today on freedom of the press and Internet in Malaysia.

AFP news agency had reported that this was a “rare stern rebuke to friend and ally Malaysia over attempts to muzzle the free press”.

It reported that the State Department criticised Malaysia’s “recent actions to restrict access to domestic and international reporting on Malaysian current affairs”.

A statement, signed by spokesman John Kirby, cited the decision to block access to “The Malaysian Insider” as cause for concern.

And he complained Malaysia “has not acted transparently nor provided due process” in targeting media groups, journalists and social media users.

“Malaysian officials have also publicly described coming amendments to its Communications and Multimedia Act that would further restrict online space,” Kirby said.

The Wisma Putra statement stated that Malaysia valued its comprehensive partnership with the United States, which signified its sincere desire to “maintain a progressive and dynamic partnership in a wide area of cooperation for the mutual benefit of both countries”.

“Malaysia believes that the US share and reciprocate this sentiment.

“Malaysia also believes that the bilateral ties could be further strengthened to greater heights through closer cooperation and better understanding of the domestic issues in Malaysia.”

While hailing Washington and Kuala Lumpur’s close ties, the US State Department had urged Malaysia “to ensure that all its laws, existing and future, fully respect freedom of expression”.