Selangor Journal
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim delivers a public lecture titled ‘The Future of the Islamic World’ at the Qatar National Library in Doha on May 13, 2024. — Picture via FACEBOOK/ANWAR IBRAHIM

Criticism of govt allowed, but mind 3R issues — Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — While criticism of the government is permissible in Malaysia, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said there are boundaries to media freedom, particularly concerning sensitive topics of race, religion and royalty (3R).

In an interview with Al Jazeera presenter Sami Zeidan yesterday, Anwar said while he advocates media freedom, he does not condone actions may incite riots or endanger public safety.

“It doesn’t matter whether we are being downgraded, but what is important is that criticism is allowed… the issue is when you touch 3R issues, condemning race, condemning religions, inviting and inciting riots. We cannot afford to have that in our country.”

Anwar said this when asked to comment on Malaysia’s position in the World Press Freedom Index, noting a significant drop of 34 places from 73 to 107 within a year.

He said under his administration, the government has not arrested journalists or banned newspapers for their criticism of the government.

On an allegation suggesting the king’s involvement in the proposed establishment of a casino in Johor, for example, Anwar said his government will not compromise with parties that touch on the institution of the Malay rulers as it could significantly impact public sentiment, potentially creating an unhealthy situation.

“Firstly, because it’s defamatory and secondly, you touch on the constitution… It is factually wrong… there wasn’t any proposal to set up a new casino,” he added.

Prior to this, Anwar denied reports the government was mulling granting a casino licence to revive Forest City in Johor.

When asked about criticism suggesting a slowdown in his government’s economic and democratic reform efforts, alongside investigations into high-profile corruption cases since taking office, Anwar said trying to rectify decades of excesses in just 1.5 years of taking office was unacceptable.

“We have seen similar attempts in the past, even in Eastern European experience, where countries … gung ho about quick reforms, (ended up) being disastrous to the economy and the political setup. In our case, contrary to these assertions or aspersions by the opposition, what is most important is governance.

“What we have been successful in is to check the abuse (of power) by leaders, the cabinet members from squandering wealth through direct negotiations, through mass billions of dollars of tender. We have stopped that,” he said.

— Bernama

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