Reporters Without Borders condemns deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar’s decision on 19 December to suspend the weekly magazine The Heat “indefinitely” for allegedly violating the terms of its print permit.
“We urge the Malaysian authorities, and in particular, the home ministry to lift The Heat’s suspension,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This measure, on questionable grounds and just a few weeks after the magazine ran an article critical of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, shows that the government is bent on sanctioning this publication.
“This is not the first time that the home ministry has intervened to obstruct freedom of information. Just a few months ago, an appeal court took issue with its refusal to issue a publication licence to the news website Malaysiakini.”
The home ministry said it suspended The Heat’s permit because, despite registering as an “economic and social” weekly in July 2013, it had begun covering general news and was covering the news in the manner of a daily rather than a weekly.
The publishers of The Heat allegedly failed to respond to two letters from the ministry, on 27 November and 2 December, requesting clarification of its legal status. Editor David Lee Boon Siew was reportedly summoned to the ministry and asked to tone down its coverage.
But the magazine claims that it did reply to the ministry’s letters within the specified deadline and that the authorities agreed to the change in its status on 18 September.
The article that is thought to have prompted the suspension, published in its 23-29 November issue, was headlined “All eyes on big-spending PM Najib” and gave examples of lavish spending by the prime minister and his wife, especially when travelling abroad.
Launched last September, The Heat is the first publication to be suspended by the government since Najib became prime minister in 2009. The magazine’s publishers met with government officials on 24 December in an attempt to find a solution.
Malaysia is ranked 145th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.