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What Najib doesn’t want you to know about Malaysia’s press freedom ranking

Tue 2012-Mar-20 @ +08 12:08:40 pm

• Two journalists killed in Indonesia, 5 kidnapped, 18 assaulted
• Indonesia’s ranking plunges 29 places, three others drop
• Malaysia gains from violence to other Asian journalists

The prime minister’s outlandish attempt last night to claim credit for Malaysia’s press freedom ranking is a shocking display of insensitivity to the deaths of at least two Indonesian journalists, and the violence against others which caused the rankings of their countries to fall, and Malaysia’s to rise.

Plainly ignoring the facts contained in Reporters Sans Frontieres’s 2011-12 report, Najib Tun Razak said last night: “Since I become Prime Minister, Malaysia has moved up nine places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index…”

His brazen effrontery is sickening. The real reason for Malaysia’s better showing is plain: other countries’ ranking fell, because of violence against journalists — Indonesia’s ranking plunged by 29 places, and India and Bangladesh also dropped. This table shows it all.

2010 2011-2012
Country Score Country Score
8 New Zealand 1,50 13 New Zealand -5,33
11 Japan 2,50 22 Japan -1,00
18 Australia 5,38 30 Australia 4,00
34 Hong-Kong 10,75 35 Papua New Guinea 9,00
42 Papua New Guinea 13,33 44 South Korea 12,67
42 South Korea 13,33 45 Taiwan 13,00
48 Taiwan 14,50 54 Hong-Kong 17,00
52 Maldives 16,00 54 Mauritius 17,00
64 Bhutan 17,75 54 Samoa 17,00
65 Mauritius 18,00 70 Bhutan 24,00
76 Mongolia 19,42 73 Maldives 25,00
93 Timor-Leste 25,00 86 Timor-Leste 30,00
111 Samoa 33,00 100 Mongolia 35,75
117 Indonesia 35,83 106 Nepal 38,75
119 Nepal 36,38 117 Cambodia 55,00
122 India 38,75 117 Fiji 55,00
126 Bangladesh 42,50 122 Malaysia 56,00
128 Cambodia 43,83 125 Brunei 56,20
136 Singapore 47,50 129 Bangladesh 57,00
141 Malaysia 50,75 131 India 58,00
142 Brunei 51,00 135 Singapore 61,00
149 Fiji 52,75 137 Thailand 61,50
151 Pakistan 56,17 140 Philippines 64,50
153 Thailand 56,83 146 Indonesia 68,00
156 Philippines 60,00 151 Pakistan 75,00
158 Sri Lanka 62,50 163 Sri Lanka 87,50
165 Vietnam 75,75 165 Laos 89,00
168 Laos 80,50 169 Burma 100,00
171 China 84,67 172 Vietnam 114,00
174 Burma 94,50 174 China 136,00
177 North Korea 104,75 178 North Korea 141,00

Asia-Pacific countries. Source: Reporters Sans Frontieres

No, prime minister, Malaysia did not rise in the RSF rankings. The others fell — because journalists were killed or beaten up.

In Indonesia at least two journalists died in an army crackdown in West Papua; five were kidnapped and 18 journalists assaulted.

“That was the main reason for Indonesia’s plunge,” says Reporters Sans Frontieres in the report to the press freedom index

“A corrupt judiciary that is too easily influenced by politicians and pressure groups and government attempts to control the media and Internet have prevented the development of a freer press.”

“In Bangladesh, opposition groups and the ruling Awami League took turns to attack and obstruct the press. In India, journalists were exposed to violence in two states and threats from mafia groups in the main cities; the government also attempted to tighten controls on online media

Conditions worsened in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Singapore. Conditions did not improve in Malaysia in 2011.

While the prime minister sought to mock the United States and Britain, he conveniently neglected to see that 10 small Asian countries rank superior to Malaysia in the RSF table.

Najib’s boasts about his commitment to press freedom must be weighed against the events in Malaysia in the past year, among which were:

  • Malaysiakini was again refused a newspaper licence
  • A television cameraman died on duty in hostile conditions in a needless and showy adventure sponsored by a member of the prime minister’s department
  • The home minister and the information minister went on a frolic of their own to try to co-opt the national mass media into becoming full-fledged government and Barisan Nasional stooges and propagandists
  • The information minister went on a spree issuing libel writs against sundry small bloggers
  • The defence ministry co-opted for their own ends a notorious blogger who had, with impunity, gleefully published clips from a video purportedly of a man resembling the opposition leader cavorting with a woman purportedly a prostitute from China
  • Nanyang Siang Pau and The Star were hounded by the home ministry for errors that impinged on religious sensitivities, while Utusan Malaysia whipped up racial and religious tensions with abandon
  • The police hounded a young blogger who made facetious remarks about people in high places, based on reports already carried by other blogs and after he was fingered by pro-Umno bloggers
  • Media Prima took over the New Straits Times Press, and the prime minister’s press secretary was appointed to a senior editorial position to supervise NSTP newspapers, further concentrating press ownership and control.

Against all that, it is laughable that the prime minister seeks to gain personal glory out of a niggardly and grudging concession to withdraw annual licensing of newspapers — still unfulfilled after six months, and in the fourth year of his term.)

To add further insult, Najib even claims credit for the existence of Malaysiakini and the Malaysian Insider — both of which were set up well before he became prime minister: Malaysiakini 10 years before, and the Insider in 2008, a year before Najib’s government took office.

It is hilarious to see that Najib said: “I’m not naïve. I know that editors choose critical stories above positive ones…. But there are always two sides to every story, and things are rarely as simple as they seem.” » Najib: I gave media more freedom

He must be truly naive if he cannot see that journalists write critical reports because politicians speak with forked tongues, and because it is the journalist’s duty to give a complete and rounded report, and to call politicians to account.

Malaysian journalists, and the Malaysian public, are not so naive as to take politicians at their word, even less so when the words of the politician and the facts they conveniently disregard so often do not tally.

Quite plainly, despite his own words, Najib Tun Razak is no different from most other politicians in wanting to see only one side of the story, and never mind the facts.


  1. Tue 2012-Mar-20 @ +08 13:04:02 pm 13:04

    This is Najib who will claim everything that is in his favor and most of all always telling the half truth and action on just the opposite of what he promises. Just what and see all the new taxes he will introduce, that is get reelected, to claw back all the billions he is currently giving away.
    It does not take a genius to know that he is buying votes, not with his own money, just before the anticipated GE. Especially so when the country’s budget is in deficit and worst of all with borrowed money !
    He never gave away anything since he became the P.M. why all of a sudden he is so caring and generous ?

  2. Tue 2012-Mar-20 @ +08 13:10:58 pm 13:10

    Ei, you forgot to mention the BBC-FBC scandal where Najib’s government paid millions of pounds to buy favourable programming on the BBC, which the BBC later apologised for.
    It’s not killing or intimidating journalists but it sure doesn’t promote media freedom either when secretly-funded PR is passed off as news.
    Not sure if that sort of thing should show up in Malaysia’s index or the UK’s?

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Tue 2012-Mar-20 @ +08 13:52:11 pm 13:52

      It was the BBC that was affected, their press ethics called into question not ours, questionable though they are.

  3. NAR permalink
    Tue 2012-Mar-20 @ +08 16:47:12 pm 16:47

    On that note, Bernama has several stories quoting the Oxford Business Group, who are commission by the government to write on the Malaysian economy.

  4. cherrypicker permalink
    Fri 2012-Mar-23 @ +08 13:01:36 pm 13:01

    2010 score: 50,75
    2011 score: 56,00

    It actually got worse under Najib!

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Sat 2012-Mar-24 @ +08 08:14:21 am 08:14

      An expanded set of criteria were used for 2011, so a direct comparison with 2010 isn’t quite accurate; ratings were changed for all countries.

  5. cherrypicker permalink
    Fri 2012-Mar-23 @ +08 13:15:57 pm 13:15

    In fact, the score has been steadily rising under Najib.

    2006: 22.25 (badawi)
    2007: 41.00 (badawi)
    2008: 39.50 (badawi)
    2009: 44.25 (najib)
    2010: 50.75 (najib)
    2011: 56.00 (najib)


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