Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The Malaysian media continued to be sharply constrained by legal restrictions and other forms of intimidation during 2003. The constitution permits limitations on freedom of expression, and the government imposes them in practice, ostensibly to protect national security and public order. The Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) requires all publishers and printing firms to obtain an annual permit to operate, which can be withdrawn without judicial review. Authorities have shut down or otherwise circumscribed the distribution of some pro-opposition media outlets under the PPPA. The Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act, Broadcasting Act, and criminal defamation laws also impose wide restrictions on the press and on other critical voices. Political parties and business people or companies close to the ruling coalition own or control most major newspapers, and political news coverage and editorials strongly support the government line. Similarly, state-run Radio Television Malaysia and the two private television stations offer flattering coverage of the government and rarely air opposition views. Pressure from owners, as well as fear of legal reprisals, encourages many journalists to practice self-censorship. In November, the editor of a major daily was sacked after he wrote an article that called for reform in Saudi Arabia. Foreign publications are subject to censorship, and issues containing critical articles are frequently delayed. Some diversity of opinion is provided in the online editions of newspapers (which are not bound by the PPPA regulations noted above) as well as other independent news Web sites. However, during the year the government engaged in ongoing harassment of the online daily Malaysiakini.com. In January, police acting on a complaint from the youth wing of the ruling party raided the Web site's office, interrogated journalists, and confiscated office equipment. The threat of prosecution on sedition charges hung over the Web site at year's end.