Protest in Malaysia after government suspends magazine

Members of the media protested in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday against the Malaysian government's heavy-handed suspension of a monthly magazine

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 6:28pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 6:28pm

Dozens of journalists protested on Saturday in Malaysia against the suspension of a weekly magazine, urging the government in Kuala Lumpur to allow greater press freedom.

The Heat stopped publication last month after the Home Ministry suspended it, saying it had violated its printing permit as a weekly business magazine and had failed to respond to the ministry to explain the matter.

Some 50 journalists and activists, wearing red and chanting “free the media”, held an hour-long protest in the capital where they urged the government to lift the suspension and stop controlling the press.

“This is not just about the suspension of The Heat. It’s about the freedom of the press,” activist Ambiga Sreenevasan said in a speech.

“It is about fighting for the rights of the people, the rights of the people to speak and to receive information.”

“This is not just about the suspension of The Heat. It’s about the freedom of the press.”
Malaysian activist Ambiga Sreenevasan

The Heat, which was launched last year, denied it has not responded to the ministry’s letters sent to it in late November and early December.

On Monday, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi was quoted by local media as saying that the suspension was “temporary”.

The Heat on its website describes itself as “a weekly that intends to push the boundaries of press freedom” with investigative stories on social, economic and other current issues.

The suspension followed an article on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s “growing expenditure” on overseas trips and other expenses.

Najib’s 56-year ruling coalition, which was re-elected in May with its poorest showing yet, dominates mainstream media through permits and ownership.

But criticism of the regime is flourishing online on news portals and social media sites.

Amid pressure, Najib has vowed to grant greater civil liberties, loosening decades-old security and other laws deemed as repressive by critics.

But he is facing resistance, including from his own party members used to decades of iron-fisted control, and critics accuse him of mere window-dressing to gain votes.