: The prosecution of KiniTV and Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 over a video of a press conference is an abhorrent abuse of power by the authorities, said the Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IOJ) today.
It is all the more disturbing for the State to take action against the media for reporting supposedly “offensive” remarks, it said.
"Charging journalists with a criminal offence simply for reporting a press conference is a reprehensible attack on press freedom.
"Journalists must have the liberty to report events that they feel merits coverage, even if such coverage may not be favourable to the government of the day.
"The media has the responsibility to hold public officials to scrutiny.
"They should not be prosecuted for reporting criticism of public officials, whether such censure is warranted or not," said IOJ in a statement today.
Earlier today, video news portal KiniTV was charged in the Magistrate's Court
with two counts of making offensive remarks against Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali through videos by former Batu Kawan UMNO vice-leader Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan last July.
KiniTV, represented by its director, Steven Gan Diong Keng, 54, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges before judge Zaman Mohd Noor.
IOJ said public officials always have the right to reply.
"It is simply unacceptable to use State action against journalists who do not paint public officials in a good light," it added.
IOJ cited Malaysiakini report on November 8, when the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided its office and seized two computers.
The news portal said MCMC had instructed KiniTV two months ago to remove both videos – one in Bahasa Malaysia and the other in English – on Khairuddin’s press conference.
"Malaysiakini said they had refused to remove the videos, but took out the word 'haprak
' (Malay slang that means ‘worse than useless’), which Khairuddin used to describe Apandi.
"MCMC reportedly said the Attorney-General’s Chambers had lodged the complaint.
"If it is true that the AG had made a complaint to MCMC and then later initiated prosecution when Malaysiakini refused to take down the videos containing criticism of the AG himself, then the case poses a conflict of interest and raises serious questions on the abuse of his office," it said.
IOJ then called on the AG to drop the case against Malaysiakini and to respect the press.
Journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over their heads, it added.