The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is demanding that MalaysiaNow amend or remove news reports on the chaos in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, giving it two hours to do so or face "further enforcement actions", the latest in a series of threats to news outlets by the internet regulator.
In a short message marked "confidential" but sent to MalaysiaNow's general editorial email, MCMC referred to two reports published yesterday, "Blok PN keluar, 'Tambun peliwat' bergema di Dewan Rakyat selepas PM serang Radzi" and the English version, "Pandemonium, walkout after PM refuses to retract accusation against Putrajaya MP", as well as Twitter posts on the two articles.
It said the articles "do not reflect the true context of the speech in question", adding that the headlines were also "disrespectful and insulting". MCMC, however, did not provide its own version of the events.
"Your cooperation is hereby requested to immediately (within two hours) amend or take down the content in question, including any posting, video, and other related content on all social media accounts managed by MalaysiaNow, to avoid committing offence or attempting to commit offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998," said the email sent at 4.54pm today and signed off by MCMC's "Content Analysis Department".
The email warned that failure to comply "with the instruction" would lead to "further enforcement action being taken against the MalaysiaNow website (https://www.malaysianow.com/)".
MalaysiaNow is standing by its narration of the incident in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, which saw a shouting match among MPs after Putrajaya MP Radzi Jidin took offence at Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's remarks suggesting that he was involved in accusations of corruption.
Radzi's repeated demands for a retraction from Anwar were refused, while speaker Johari Abdul said there was no issue if the prime minister was convinced of what he stated.
This led to an incensed Radzi saying that he, too, could say he was convinced that Anwar, the Tambun MP, was a sodomiser, believed to be a reference to the PKR leader's previous sodomy convictions.
"If he talks about confidence, I say I'm confident that Tambun is a sodomiser. I'm confident that Tambun is a sodomiser," Radzi had said, before fellow opposition MPs from Perikatan Nasional staged a walkout in protest of the speaker's refusal to demand a retraction from Anwar.
In its email today, MCMC, which comes under the jurisdiction of the communications and digital ministry headed by Fahmi Fadzil, specifically referred to several phrases in the reports, such as "Tambun peliwat" in the Malay headline, as well as a passage that said that the protest from the opposition MP was triggered by Anwar's accusation of corruption against Radzi and the speaker's refusal to demand a retraction from the prime minister.
MalaysiaNow editor Abdar Rahman Koya said the portal would not cave to the latest pressure and that it had merely carried out its journalistic duty to report on parliamentary proceedings for the benefit and consumption of the public.
"MCMC and Fahmi still owe us an explanation of the illegal block imposed on our website in June," he said, referring to the 48-hour block that began on June 27.
Similar blocks were also imposed on TVPertiwi, UtusanTV, and Malaysia Today, as well as a political commentary blog run by former Bukit Bintang MP Wee Choo Keong, in what was seen as a return of past clampdowns on media by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
The clampdown was condemned by a group of veteran journalists last month, who said Putrajaya was playing the role of "Big Brother".
"What is more worrying is the fact that much of the so-called 'offending' content is mere reports and opinion pieces deemed critical of the government," said a joint statement signed by prominent journalists Johan Jaaffar and A Kadir Jasin; former Bernama chairman Azman Ujang; former editors-in-chief of Bernama, Yong Soo Heong and Zakaria Wahab; as well as several other veteran media activists.
Global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also criticised the Malaysian government and urged Fahmi's ministry to immediately end all acts of censorship.
"RSF is very concerned by this wave of suspensions by Malaysian authorities, without any explanations nor judicial control, of news websites critical of the government.
"We urge Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil to put an end to these acts of censorship, which can only have a negative impact on Malaysia's democracy," RSF said in its statement early this month.