CIJ calls out two Malay dailies for demonising Women’s Day March

In a statement today, the CIJ called out Malay newspapers ‘Utusan Malaysia’ and ‘Sinar Harian’ for their negative articles on the Women’s Day March. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
In a statement today, the CIJ called out Malay newspapers ‘Utusan Malaysia’ and ‘Sinar Harian’ for their negative articles on the Women’s Day March. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has condemned two local Malay newspapers for their coverage of the Women’s Day March, citing a focus on berating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community rather than report on the bigger issues at hand.

In a statement today, the CIJ called out Malay newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Sinar Harian for their negative articles using words such as “cemar” (pollute) and “suntik” (inject) to describe the LGBT community whose lifestyle isn’t widely accepted in Malaysia.

In doing so, the CIJ said the newspapers were neglecting their duty of fair reporting, and appear to have been deliberately inciting hatred towards an already marginalised and at-risk community.

“We (CIJ) are astonished that rather than report on the demands of the march Utusan Malaysia and Sinar Harian disproportionately focused their reporting on the LGBT issue using negative words in their headlines claiming that it was culturally inappropriate to raise the issue of fundamental human rights for the LGBTIQ-identifying community,” the statement read.

“The demonisation of the LGBT community and its allies has led to strong statements by individuals in positions of authority to call for broad-based rejection and opposition to the rights of LGBT persons, including by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

“Following the newspaper reports, a campaign to launch a police report against the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and Sister in Islam (SIS) as march organisers was also announced,” the statement read.

CIJ said both newspapers failed to highlight the organisers’ call for improved child and maternal health care in rural areas and their overwhelming rejection of child marriage as signs of unfair and biased reporting.

Instead the focus was on sensationalising just the LGBT aspect of the march.

“At present, the government is said to be examining amendment to hate speech laws. Any such amendment should prioritise the rights of vulnerable minorities, rather than protecting the rights of those who are already privileged in society,” the statement went on.

“The response to the voicing up of demands for equality by the LGBT community and its allies is a clear test of the Pakatan Harapan government’s commitment to freedom of expression.”

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