Malaysia has no press freedom but beats Singapore, survey shows

Weekly paper The Heat was suspended last December after reporting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s spending habits, but Putrajaya has since lifted the suspension in January. ― File pic
Weekly paper The Heat was suspended last December after reporting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s spending habits, but Putrajaya has since lifted the suspension in January. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 ― A survey by a US-based watchdog has shown that Malaysia has no media independence and was ranked 141 out of 197 countries on press freedom.

Malaysia, however, beat Singapore in Freedom House’s press freedom ranking released yesterday as the city-state scored the 152nd spot, with both nations’ media rated “not free”.

“Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade,” Freedom House said in a statement yesterday.

The non-profit organisation championing freedom and democracy noted that only five per cent of the Asia-Pacific population had access to free media last year.

Out of the 197 countries evaluated in 2013, 63 in total (32 per cent) were rated “free”, 68 (35 per cent) “partly free”, and 66 (33 per cent) “not free”.

The highest-ranking Southeast Asian country on the list was the Philippines, which at 87th, was deemed “partly free.” Indonesia also made the “partly free” category, with its ranking of 98th.

Thailand was joint 141st with Malaysia and similarly rated as not having press freedom.

Malaysia’s press freedom score was 64 out of 100. A lower score indicates greater press freedom.

The level of press freedom was measured by assessing the country’s legal, political and economic environments.

In the legal environment category, the survey looked at laws and regulations that could influence media content and the government’s inclination to use such laws to restrict the media.

The political environment category evaluated the degree of political control over the content of news media, such as as the editorial independence of both privately-owned and state-owned organisations.

Under economic environment, the structure of media ownership, the costs of establishing media and the impact of corruption on content were looked at.

With a higher score indicating lesser media independence, Malaysia scored 24 out of 30 points under legal environment, 23 out of 40 for political environment, and 17 out of 30 for economic environment, cumulating in a total of 64 points for Malaysia’s press freedom score.

Weekly paper The Heat was suspended last December after reporting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s spending habits, but Putrajaya has since lifted the suspension in January.

In Freedom House’s survey, Sweden, Norway and Netherlands were equally as the countries with the highest level of press freedom while the country with the poorest media independence was North Korea.