Category: Press Releases, Internet, Asia & Pacific, Asia, Malaysia
By: IPI Digital Media Coordinator Javier Luque / @javierluquem

Malaysia blocks blog for not removing news story

Sarawak Report article featured developments in PM corruption scandal

Image of Medium's homepage after the online platform was blocked by the Malaysian government last Jan. 22, 2016. Picture provided by Twitter user @pikaland /

By: IPI Digital Media Coordinator Javier Luque / @javierluquem

VIENNA, Jan 27, 2016 - The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has blocked one of Malaysia’s most popular blogging platforms after the company did not comply with a request to remove a post by Sarawak Report that allegedly contained “false content”.

The investigative news website Sarawak Report had turned to Medium in an effort to reach the Malaysian audience after the government blocked its online operations on July 30, 2015 and issued an arrest warrant against its founder, Clare Rewcastle Brown, for reporting on allegations of corruption against the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak.

According to a public statement released by Medium’s legal team on Jan. 26, 2016, the MCMC requested the US-based blogging platform the week before to remove Sarawak Report’s article “[Prime Minister] Najib [Razak] Negotiates His Exit BUT He Wants Safe Passage AND All The Money! EXCLUSIVE DISCLOSURE.” The post was an investigative news story revealing an allegedly dubious agreement between the government and the attorney-general to exonerate the prime minister of the corruption charges that came after several news outlets, including Sarawak Report, published findings that a bank account belonging to the prime minister contained the equivalent of 620 million euros missing from a state development fund.

According to Medium, the MCMC justified its request for the removal of the post because it considered the content to be “false, unsubstantiated, misleading and in violation of the following law: Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.”

In response, the blogging platform asked for further documentation in order to “more thoroughly investigate”. However, less than 24 hours later, on Jan. 22, 2016, the MCMC issued an order to internet service providers operating in the country to block the entire publishing platform in the country.

Medium replied that, in light of a lack of response, it “is in no position to evaluate the truth of the Sarawak Report’s Medium post. We’ve received no evidence that the post violates any of our rules, or any law”. In the same statement, the blogging platform displayed its commitment to independent journalism: “We stand by investigative journalists who publish on Medium. Until we receive an order from a court of competent jurisdiction, the post stays up.”

Medium, created by one of the founders of Twitter, Evan Williams, has become one of the most important publishing platforms world-wide. “Its blocking directly impacts the ability of thousands of bloggers to use it, damaging an already weak freedom of the press in Malaysia”, IPI Digital Media Coordinator Javier Luque said. “The government should immediately restore access to the publishing platform in order to safeguard not only internet freedom in the country, but to fully guarantee freedom of speech and access to information”, Luque concluded.

Sarawak Report is a sister publication of the 2013 International Press Institute (IPI) Free Media Pioneer Award winner, Radio Free Sarawak.

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