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TI-M appalled over restraint of information

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Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) appalled over restraint of information

Transparency International Malaysia is very concerned with the authorities’ apparently growing disregard for the public’s right to freedom of information. Two cases have been highlighted this past week that seems to underline the grave threat to transparency and media freedom, even to the extent of urging and even pressuring private organizations and the media to stifle public access to information.


1. The first case concerns Deputy Minister M Kayveas’ public attacks on CTOS; while


2. The second concerns private television and radio stations being directed by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to stop airing speeches by opposition leaders.


These two seemingly unconnected issues adversely affects the commitment and duty of the corporate and business sectors, the media and the government to seriously promote transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance, as strongly stressed by our Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi in his keynote address at the mid banquet just last night.


The public has a constitutional right to information and to know and by seeking to suppress information whether via CTOS’ credit reports or by seeking to suppress radio and television content, the authorities concerned are clearly violating the public’s freedom of access to information for legitimate business purposes and to be informed of public policy issues. This is essential for an open and transparent democracy to function meaningfully and to win respect of all freedom loving Malaysians and others.

TI-M requests the government to not take such measures that go against the grain of transparency and good governance. These regressive measures will not allow the public to make responsible and informed decisions based on fair access to information. The active and mature democracy that the government is aspiring to build can be jeopardized by ill conceived measures of this nature by some officials and individuals.


3. Recommendations


a. Media
In the case of the media directive, we strongly urge the MCMC and the Ministry concerned to retract the letter that we understand has been sent to the media and instead uphold objective journalism that provides the public with all viewpoints of the important issues and policies.


In the case of CTOS, we call upon government officials and any legislators to cease the attacks on CTOS and instead to make representations to its management if there are concerns about the way credit and financial information is collated and disseminated. The fact that some legislators names are listed as defaulters surely does not justify any call to ban the service.


We have to be increasingly concerned with public and national interests rather than the protection of individuals.


We therefore support the stand taken by the ABM which is well qualified to comment competently on this matter.
We also would welcome the advice and intervention of Bank Negara in this vital matter as the credibility of our credit system and banking integrity could be open to question.


4. Conclusion
We must continually strive for higher standards in accountability, transparency and good governance and support the public’s right to information. We should not hamper the free flow of information that is in the public domain.


We have to give substance to our Prime Minister’s courageous and frequent calls for greater transparency and integrity in the government and privates sectors.
The Prime Minister’s insistence on more integrity needs full support and any undue interference should be stoutly resented and resisted.


We therefore call upon the government to remove all interference to the public duty of the media and to cease castigating CTOS in its genuine business intentions of ensuring access to credit information for effective well informed business decision makings.


Issued by
Tan Sri (Dr) Ramon V. Navaratnam
Transparency International – Malaysia