The Federal Court has dismissed Malaysian Trade Union Congress’s and thirteen other appellants application for a judicial review of the Court of Appeals decision to deny legal rights of access to the Syabas audit report and concession agreement. These documents are placed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
When Pakatan Rakyat took office in 2008, the Selangor state government declared its interest to make the concession documents public. This ultimately led to the High court ruling of the disclosure of the documents on June 28, 2010. But on February 25 2011, this decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal by a two to one majority.
Klang MP Charles Santiago, one of the 14 appellants, called Wednesday’s Federal Court hearing a total disregard to the freedom of information and the right to information of the citizens. He added that the details of the audit report as well as the hushed dealings directly affect the peoples’ livelihood.
“Wednesday’s Federal Court hearing showed total disregard to the freedom of information and the right to information of the citizens, especially since details of the audit report as well as the hushed dealings directly affect the peoples’ livelihood”, he said.
“The Malaysian government has an insatiable need to suppress information. Ruling UMNO has always used oppressive laws and the authorities, to go after media organizations and journalists who dared divulge information, which poked holes on the government’s rhetoric. Prime Minister Najib Razak is clearly trying to manufacture a faux reality for the people, or rather “the best democracy” with a fake sunny disposition”, he added.
He related that in other attempts to shackle the media, the Home Ministry revoked the publishing license of FZ.com and popular radio station BFM who have been forced to stop the airing of an interview with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim on 12 February 2014.
The state of the nation’s media freedom is best described by the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, which ranked Malaysia at 147 out of 180 countries. An all time low for Malaysia.
The press freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders takes into account 7 criteria : the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure.
In the words of Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, “It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions”.