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Malaysia: Two private publications closed

In a letter sent today to home affairs minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Badawi, Reporters Sans Frontièères (RSF) protested against the decision not to renew the licences of two private magazines Exclusif and Al-Wasilah. RSF asked the minister to "change his decision" which, it said "constituted a violation of press freedom" and to "permit to the two newspapers to resume publication".

Robert Méénard, the general secretary of RSF, urged the authorities to "liberalise the press laws." Since the beginning of 2000, two others publications have been sanctioned by the government due to the Printing Press and Publications Act, a repressive press law which gags opposition media.

According to our information the government decided not to renew the licences of the political weekly Exclusif and the monthly Al-Wasilah. According to Malaysian press law, all the printed media must request the renewal of their publishing permits every year. Exclusif stopped publishing last April when its licence expired. The editor was informed in August by the authorities that its licence would not be renewed.

The press group that owns the weekly and another twenty publications did not released this news, fearing that other titles might suffer the same fate. The editor appealed at least three times to the minister who accused the weekly of not respecting the terms of its licence and of publishing "imbalanced articles".

Moreover, the magazine Al-Wasilah, a monthly for young Muslims, whose editor is a member of the Islamist opposition party PAS, has not had a licence since 31 August 2000.

According to the online daily Malaysiakini, the authorities accused the magazine of publishing articles with an "opposition slant". The final decision has not yet been released by the government but several sources affirmed that the ministry would sanction Al-Wasilah as it did with Exclusif.


11 September 2000