Public’s right to information must be upheld and OSA repealed after news editor called in for police questioning — CIJ

JUNE 26 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) notes with concern today’s questioning of CodeBlue Editor-in-Chief Boo Su-Lyn by the police, reportedly under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) and Penal Code. This adds to the number of reported cases of members of the media being investigated and/or charged under repressive laws since the change of government in March 2020, and may be seen as part of a deliberate and concerted series of actions aimed at silencing the media and curtailing the raising of critical questions of public interests.

CIJ strongly condemns the continued use of repressive laws such as the OSA as tools of suppression and which, in this case, threatens media freedom. The OSA creates barriers and limits our right to information as it allows any document to be classified as secret once it has been certified as such by a public officer, with no requirement for harm and without requiring any relation to national security, international relations or defence.

However, we strongly believe that the right to information reflects the fundamental premise that all information held by the State and related governmental institutions is, in principle, public and may only be withheld or have access restricted if there are legitimate reasons for not disclosing it, such as for purposes of State security or privacy.

Access to information facilitates the public in forming opinions about issues that affect us, including holding the government and its related bodies and officials accountable for their decisions or actions that affect the general public. It promotes constructive participation in any debate or discussions related to specific decision-making processes and/or of public interest, and strengthens rule of law.

CodeBlue’s reports on the declassified findings of an independent inquiry committee into the 2016 fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru should not be criminalised; instead, the State should be protecting and creating an enabling environment to investigate and report on matters of clear public interest. Furthermore, a harm test must be administered to determine legitimacy, necessity and proportionality before attacking and restricting the freedom of expression and opinion. Critical voices and access to information are at the heart of transparency and accountability to check and balance State power!

We call on the authorities to drop their investigations into CodeBlue’s Editor-in-Chief at once and for the new Perikatan Nasional government to continue with the previous government’s commitment to repeal the draconian OSA and enact a Right to Information Act.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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