KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney-General Apandi Ali has questioned the World Press Freedom Index 2016 report by Reporters Without Borders, which has placed Malaysia at 146th place out of 180 countries.
“Our firmness in shaping our media’s freedom according to our own mould has been misunderstood by the international community as being indicative of a country that does not hold to democratic principles based on human rights,” Apandi said at a luncheon talk with editors and members of the media here today.
Apandi said according to the World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia’s global score had dropped from 43.29 to 46.57 points this year. According to Reporters Without Borders’ score system, a smaller score indicates greater freedom of the press.
He noted that Reporters Without Borders had reported last year that two-thirds of the countries studied, including the United States and Singapore, had experienced drops in press freedom.
“Taking that into consideration, does this really reflect the level of press freedom in Malaysia?” .
Apandi said that it was surprising that the index had ranked Malaysia below countries like Myanmar.
Myanmar ranked at 143rd place, the Philippines at the 138th, Thailand at the 136th and Indonesia at the 130th positions.
Apandi said press freedom had to take into account the multicultural and multi-religious make-up of Malaysian society, and the Federal Constitution in itself did not give complete freedom of speech.
“The freedom for Malaysians to speak is guaranteed under Clause 1(a), Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which gives all citizens the freedom to speak.
“However, one should be reminded that this is not a full and absolute right.”
Apandi noted that Clause 2 of the Article gives Parliament the power to impose legal restrictions on the freedom to speak to “protect the safety of the federation”.
“No country is completely free,” Apandi chided. “There is no such thing as complete freedom.”