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Overseas Press Club of America Condemns Malaysian Government’s Suspension of Two Publications
NEW YORK, New York – July 27, 2015 – The Overseas Press Club of America today condemned the Malaysian government’s decision to suspend two publications for their reporting about allegations that Prime Minister Najib Razak misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from the state investment fund, known as 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Both the Edge Weekly and the Edge Financial Daily were suspended for three months.
“If Malaysia wishes to be regarded as a rapidly advancing economy with a strong democratic tradition, as the U.S. State Department described the country, this is not the way to do it,” said the OPC. “Prime Minister Najib is using draconian laws to silence the media much like the most corrupt and repressive governments in the world.” The Edge Weekly and the Edge Financial Daily are owned by the Edge Media Group, based in Malaysia. Malaysia’s Home Ministry said the two publications’ reporting on 1MDB was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest.” (sic)
Ho Kay Tat, publisher and chief executive of the media group, responded, saying, “This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up.”
The Edge Weekly and Edge Financial Daily, with about 350 staff in Malaysia, had been leaders in exposing a $1.8 billion-fraud and money laundering scheme that involved U.S., British, Singaporean and Swiss banks. In one case, the publications documented that $680 million was transferred to one of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s private bank accounts in Kuala Lumpur from agencies, banks and companies linked to 1MDB. Najib created the state investment fund and heads its board of advisers. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times also have reported the allegations. Najib has denied using funds deposited in his personal account.
“This is the first time a serving Asian leader has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar with actual proof of money in his personal bank account,” said editorial consultant Assif Shameen, who works for the Edge Singapore, which is outside the Malaysian government’s jurisdiction. He noted that Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and Indonesian strongman Suharto were able to siphon off huge sums of money from their governments, “but they could hide behind numbered Swiss accounts. In the post 9/11 world with anti-money laundering laws, corrupt dictators can’t wire billions to Zurich any more. They need to keep the money in their own country.”
The 75-year-old Overseas Press Club strives to defend and uphold the highest standards of international journalism. With members in 22 countries, the OPC and its affiliated OPC Foundation grant scholarships to aspiring correspondents, promote standards for freelancers operating in conflict zones, present prestigious awards for international coverage and seek to defend press freedom around the world. It also maintains an extensive network of reciprocal relations with press clubs everywhere.
Contact: OPC Executive
Director Patricia Kranz, 40 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036.