CIJ asks police, Home Ministry to stop targeting media over DIGP’s rape threat remarks

Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu speaks during an interview with Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur July 20, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu speaks during an interview with Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur July 20, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Media advocacy group, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), has demanded that the police and Home Ministry stop targeting the media for quoting a public statement made by Deputy Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani recently.

CIJ executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu said it was “disturbing” to hear the Home Ministry threatening to summon news portal Malaysiakini and Chinese language newspaper China Press for quoting verbatim Acryl’s comments on a rape threat against a school student in their reports.

“If the authorities are of the view that they have been misquoted or misrepresented, they are entitled to clarify their statement, which the police have done.

“The press should not be subjected to being summoned by the government or threatened with action simply because the authorities are dissatisfied with the manner in which a report was presented,” she said in a statement today.

CIJ also said that media freedom in the country will never be assured as long as the authorities continue to act in this way.

“Independence is a key component of the media’s ability to hold authorities to account. The media in Malaysia will never be free as long as they are subjected to being summoned by the authorities or the government on matters such as this or each time the authorities are portrayed in a negative light.

“It is precisely these kinds of actions from the authorities that contributed to Malaysia’s precipitous fall of 18 spots on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index,” she said.

Yesterday, the Home Ministry said that it would be summoning a newspaper and an online news portal over their recent articles on Acryl’s remarks about an alleged rape threat that a student had received from a classmate.

In a statement, the ministry said that it viewed the matter seriously, and would call up the two news outlets “immediately, to obtain an explanation as well as further information regarding the media reports concerned.”

“The Home Ministry would like to advise media practitioners to uphold good journalistic principles to safeguard the credibility of the news reports published,” it said.

Earlier yesterday, Bukit Aman’s IGP Secretariat issued a statement alleging that Malaysiakini and China Press used confusing headlines and failed to provide the full context of Acryl’s comments when he addressed the topic at a press conference in Shah Alam on Monday.

The case in question concerns two police reports lodged by a 17-year-old student, the initial one aimed at calling out a teacher who allegedly made jokes about rape, and the second over an apparent rape threat she received from one of her classmates.

The student, Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, gained attention after a social media post she shared related how the male teacher had supposedly made a rape joke during school lessons in the presence of both male and female students, with her exposé later triggering the alleged threats.

Acryl had made the disputed comments during the press conference yesterday when he confirmed the student made a second report over the alleged rape threat she had received.

Since Acryl’s comments, two female MPs have come out to condemn his comments, accusing him of brushing off rape threats as a joke, and even saying his comments also appeared to sanction violence against women.

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