We, the undersigned civil society organisations in Malaysia, deplore the one-sided and highly irresponsible New Straits Times (NST) front cover story on 21 September 2012 which alleged two global funders and nine organisations which received grants from them are part of a “plot to destabilize the government”.
We find the report by journalist Farrah Naz Karim written in bad faith and view it as a crude attack on civil society in Malaysia for these reasons:
a) The report did not feature any comments from any of the named funders nor organisations – SUARAM, Bersih, Southeast Centre for E-Media, Centre for Independent Journalism, Merdeka Center, Lawyers for Liberty, Liberal Banter Sdn Bhd, Malaysiakini.com, and Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Except for Malaysiakini.com and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, no attempt has been made to contact any of the Malaysia-based organisations for their response after the article was published;
b) The report did not offer any fact or evidence to corroborate its claims, relying instead on extracts from secondary references and makes insinuations that the said organisations which received funding are involved in “destabilising the government”;
c) The report was written in a sensationalised style, quoting unnamed sources for a news article which accused eight Malaysia-based organisations and a regional media activist group of a grave allegation – being linked to “foreign hands” out to “destabilise legitimate governments and replace them with client proxies”;
d) The report used an interview with political scientist Chandra Muzaffar to make the simplistic and sweeping link between global funders and democracy movements which toppled dictators in the Middle East and Malaysian organisations.
Such disparaging reports lay the groundwork for a crackdown on civil society as can be seen from the on-going state harassment campaign against SUARAM and the possible use of even more draconian measures.
We view this spate of attacks on civil society as an attempt to distract public attention from serious issues of corruption and abuse of power such as the Scorpene submarine and National Feedlot Centre scandals and the people’s demand for greater democracy, human rights and free and fair elections.
Given the serious nature of the allegations and insinuations, and the lack of evidence produced, we demand that the NST retract its unfounded news report and print a full and unqualified apology in an equally prominent place.
Centre for Independent Journalism
Lawyers for Liberty
Southeast Centre for E-Media
Suara Rakyat Malaysia