World Association of News Publishers

Monopolizing the Nation: Soft Censorship Malaysia

Monopolizing the Nation: Soft Censorship Malaysia

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A new report released today by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, WAN-IFRA, on "soft" censorship in Malaysia shows that government-linked and government-controlled media monopolize Malaysia’s print media landscape, aided by the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Monopolizing the Nation: Soft Censorship in Malaysia, tells a story of soft or indirect censorship in Malaysia, where the Printing Presses and Publications act is used to lock out non-government-friendly interests from the print media sector and to discipline those few alternative media granted licenses, through the imposition and enforcement of license conditions and license suspension with impunity.

The report, edited by Dr Tessa Houghton of the Nottingham University, Malaysia, recommends that The Printing Presses and Publications Act, currently used to construct and maintain a media system dominated by the ruling coalition, should be abolished along with the provisions in The Sedition Act that criminalizes media content.  The report also recommends that existing guidelines protecting the internet from censorship should be respected and strengthened.

The free report can be downloaded in full at the bottom of the page.

The Malaysia report is the fourth in a series of country reports on soft censorship to be released by WAN-IFRA this year, after Serbia, Hungary and Mexico. The reports, part of a global project in partnership with the Open Society Foundations, show a growing pattern of soft censorship as a formidable weapon in governments' arsenal to prevent a free press.

While Mexican journalists are frequently targets of physical attacks, soft censorship is another more subtle and very significant danger to press freedom according to the report released earlier this year on Mexico.  “Buying Compliance: Governmental Advertising and Soft Censorship in Mexico” demonstrates how Mexico’s federal and state governments deploy financial power to pressure media outlets and penalize critical reporting.

In contrast to Mexico, the jailing of journalists or the closure of media outlets does not generally threaten the independent press in Europe, however, soft censorship is a more subtle but significant new danger, according to the reports on Serbia and Hungary.

The reports demonstrate how the governments in two European countries use their financial power to pressure media outlets, punish critical reporting and reward favourable coverage.

Economic pressures are especially devastating in times of economic instability and lead to unbalanced reporting and to self-censorship among media professionals, and thus constitute a real threat to press freedom, the reports found.

“Soft censorship,” or indirect government censorship, includes a variety of actions intended to influence media, short of closures, imprisonments, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on media outlets or journalists.

Along with the four country reports released in 2014, WAN-IFRA also released a global report highlighting the effects of soft censorship worldwide. Soft Censorship, Hard Impact underlined the growing trend of governments silencing critical reporting through economic pressure.

"Through the in-depth studies of four countries plus the global report, WAN-IFRA has shown that soft censorship is now a clear and present danger to independent news media", said Larry Kilman, WAN-IFRA Secretary General.

"This insidious behaviour by governments has the same devastating effect on independent journalism as the jailing of journalists with impunity.  The difference is that soft censorship is largely unseen by the public and governments know that jailing journalists will bring widespread community anger, whereas shutting a critical news organisation through financially burdening them with spurious taxes or the misuse of government advertising will be less noticed".

The global report’s recommendations suggest a path forward that proponents of free and independent media can embrace, beginning with greater transparency and impartiality in all government payments and funding for media, be it for advertising, training, content, or straightforward subsidies.

WAN-IFRA, along with its partners, will continue to report on soft censorship in 2015.

The latest report, Monopolizing the Nation: Soft Censorship Malaysia, can be downloaded for free at the bottom of the page.

For more information on WAN-IFRA’s press freedom activities, visit

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Secretary General, WAN-IFRA, 96 bis, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 07. Fax: +33 1 42 78 92 33. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail:






Alison Meston's picture

Alison Meston


2014-12-18 18:26

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...