Malaysia Suspending Financial Newspapers For 1MDB Coverage

By BenarNews Staff
2015.07.24
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150708-MY-GANI620.jpg Malaysian police seize equipment from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) office in Kuala Lumpur, July 8, 2015.
AFP

Malaysia's Home Ministry has suspended publication of the country's leading financial daily over its extensive reporting of a corruption scandal engulfing Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Starting Monday, The Edge Media Group's two key publications, The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly, will be suspended for three months for their reporting of the scandal in the debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund, the ministry said.

The Edge's reports were "prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest," the Edge said in a statement, citing a letter from the ministry.

The move came as the government stepped up its crackdown on the media and other groups as more details of the scandal emerged in recent weeks.

This week, the government blocked the U.K.-based website Sarawak Report, which together with the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal had reported that some U.S. $700 million was funneled into Najib’s personal bank accounts through entities linked to 1MDB.

The blocking of the website, run by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's sister-in-law, came despite governmental assurances to foreign investors that Malaysia's internet would not be censored.

Najib and 1MDB officials have denied any wrongdoing. The Prime Minister said claims linking him to the corruption scandal were part of a political sabotage. 1MDB, a pet project of Najib, has chalked up U.S. $11 billion in debt.

"We don't see how exposing the scam to cheat the people of Malaysia of billions of ringgit can be construed as being detrimental to public and national interest," The Edge Media Group publisher Ho Kay Tat said.

"This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up."

Ho was summoned by police earlier this week and questioned about his paper’s publication of an extensive report detailing  how money had flowed out of 1MDB into PetroSaudi International, a Middle East-based oil exploration company, and that U.S. $1.83 billion was allegedly stolen by company officers and others.

He said The Edge would challenge the ministry's decision in court.

‘Extreme measure’

The Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a Malaysian media watchdog, condemned the suspension of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, calling it "an extremely heavy-handed measure and a breach of freedom of expression and media freedom in particular."

"To justify such a serious and extreme measure, it is wholly insufficient for the Home Ministry to merely make sweeping, general claims about prejudice to public order, security or alarm. It must specify exactly how The Edge's reporting on 1MDB would jeopardize public order or security," it said.

The government action "only leads to more questions on the management of 1MDB," the CIJ added.

Opposition leader’s op-ed

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has so far detained three people to assist in the probe into 1MDB, but they have not been identified or charged.

Bank Negara, Malaysia's central bank, is also seeking two former 1MDB directors, Casey Tang and Jasmine Loo, to assist in the probe.

In addition, two opposition legislators have been issued travel bans over the investigations into the scandal.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim warned that Najib had “doubled down on political repression,” despite his promises of reform and pledges to allow the voices of dissent to be heard.

Jailed in February on sodomy charges that he says were politically motivated, Anwar warned that Malaysia was among middle-income nations that could devolve into a failed state, citing "decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending."

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