Abdullah Ahmad: A Blow to Media Freedom?

2 December 2003
Source: Statement by the Centre for Independent Journalism

The sacking of Abdullah Ahmad, former group editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times Press has demonstrated once again the executive interference into the country’s media institution. However, it is not the sacking of a journalist.

Abdullah was a political appointee of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. On sackng one of Abdullah’s predecessor’s Dr Mahathir famously told him that being 100% loyal to United Malay National Organisation (who own the New Straits Times) was not enough. Abdullah Ahmad clearly followed in this tradition.

Political interference in the media is a violation of freedom of expression. However, when the extent of political interference is such that editors are political appointees, the sacking of an editor may not be a blow for media independence.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in Malaysia believes in the need to end all political interference in the running of the media. It calls for an overhaul in the ownership structures and legislation governing the Malaysian media. Licensing restrictions in the newspapers are owned by members of the ruling coalition or businessmen closely linked with them.Printing Presses and Publications Act have guaranteed that all daily Only once the links between political parties and the media have been severed can we truly begin to enjoy a free and independent media institution in Malaysia. Until then, the sacking of the top echelons of the media will continue to be part of a political game, aimed at controlling media space and public opinion.

For further information please contact:
Sonia Randhawa – soniarandhawa@yahoo.com
V Gayathry – vgayathry@yahoo.co.uk

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