Action on TV stations sees return to ‘old days’ of clamping down on media, says ex-minister

Al Jazeera is being probed for sedition, slander and improper use of network facilities over a documentary it aired. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: A former federal minister said action taken over two television stations over documentaries it aired has Malaysians wondering if the nation was heading back to the “old days” of clamping down on the media.

Teresa Kok said this appears to be the direction the Perikatan Nasional administration was heading to, following the police investigation into Al Jazeera and the fine slapped on Astro.

Al Jazeera is being probed for sedition, slander and improper use of network facilities over its report on undocumented migrants in the country during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Astro, meanwhile, was fined RM4,000 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for airing an Al Jazeera documentary on the controversial murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2015.

Kok, the primary industries minister in the Pakatan Harapan government, said the high-handedness of the authorities has tarnished the image of the Perikatan Nasional government internationally.

“The ministers who are in PN and who were in the PH Cabinet are guilty of this destruction.

Teresa Kok.

“Unless right-thinking Malaysians and those who cherish freedom and a healthy democracy stand up and be counted, we will slip down further in the media freedom index soon,” the DAP MP said in a statement.

Taking action against the television stations, she said, had undermined the independence, freedom and professionalism of outlets such as Al Jazeera and other media in producing and airing programmes of global standard.

She said such action was meant to instil fear in foreign journalists.

Kok said if the PN government disagreed with the contents of Al Jazeera’s documentary, it could set the record straight instead of prosecuting the station and its journalists.

“If only they had responded, the story would have been different.”

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