The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) today defended its threat against news portal MalaysiaNow, urging media outlets to abide by its guidelines which it said would lead to a "more informed and balanced public discourse, free from misleading information and manipulation".
On Wednesday, MCMC, a body under the communications and digital ministry headed by Fahmi Fadzil, gave MalaysiaNow a two-hour deadline to take down its reports on the commotion in the Dewan Rakyat sparked by an accusation thrown by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the Tambun MP, at Perikatan Nasional MP Radzi Jidin.
It said the reports "do not reflect the true context of the speech in question", and that the headlines were "disrespectful and insulting", referring to the words "Tambun is a sodomiser" uttered by Radzi.
Radzi brought up Anwar's past convictions on sodomy after becoming angered by the speaker's statement that there was nothing wrong with Anwar making the accusation if he was convinced of it.
MalaysiaNow has refused to meet MCMC's demand, saying it will not cave to pressure in carrying out its journalistic duty.
MCMC's warning was condemned by Tasek Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who said MalaysiaNow had reportedly truthfully, and asked if the commission wanted the news portal to report fake news.
Earlier today, meanwhile, veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin said he had asked an MCMC officer if it was an offence to talk about previous court cases involving the prime minister, but received no clear answer.
"After 10 months in power, the actions of some leaders in the unity government and agencies related to the mass media give the impression that they are intolerant towards the freedom of speech and dissent.
"Some have even filed complaints with the police," said Kadir, who once headed the New Straits Times Press.
Responding to Kadir, MCMC said it wanted to emphasise "the importance of accurately representing the context of speeches delivered in Parliament".
"MCMC has observed that some reporting has been weaponised to manipulate the content and fuel a disrespectful and divisive narrative.
"In order to prevent the commission or attempted commission of an offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, MCMC calls for full cooperation from news outlets and individuals," it added.