Malaysia: RSF urges authorities to drop abusive investigation against journalist
Journalist and editor Kean Wong was briefly detained on 17 October and is currently under investigation for publishing a book in 2020 that was censored due to its controversial cover. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Malaysian authorities to put an end to this abusive procedure.
On Tuesday 17 October 2023, Malaysian journalist and editor Kean Wong was released after being held in custody for 24 hours at a police station in Kuala Lumpur. The journalist is currently being investigated by the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and could face a charge of “sedition” – an offense punishable by a three-year prison sentence – for having published a book on domestic politics in January 2020 and later banned by the government.
"By launching an investigation for ‘sedition’ against this journalist, the Malaysian authorities are clearly abusing its power and sending a worrying signal to the media community in the country. We urge the authorities to immediately drop this investigation.
The book edited by Wong and entitled Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, and Hope in New Malaysia' focuses on Malaysia's domestic politics. The book was banned by the government six months after its release on the pretext that its cover, which features a caricature of the national coat of arms, was “prejudicial to public order".
Wong, a contributor to BBC, The Economist, and ABC, is also the co-founder of the Malaysian Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ). He had recently returned to Malaysia after working and living in Australia for around 30 years.
In a statement, the Executive Director of the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Wathshlah G. Naidu, says that "The arrest of Kean Wong after three years since the publication of the book showcases the state’s commitment to suppressing the public’s ability to both inform the public and to speak out no matter how warranted."
Despite a general improvement of the press freedom situation in Malaysia in recent years, independent journalists and media remain regular targets of the authorities. In January 2022, RSF reported that the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had brought a defamation suit against investigative journalist Lalitha Kunaratnam for reporting an alleged conflict of interests within the commission.
Malaysia is ranked 73rd out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, the highest among ASEAN countries.