A security guard is seen in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 31, 2020. Malaysian authorities recently filed criminal charges against journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias. (Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)
A security guard is seen in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 31, 2020. Malaysian authorities recently filed criminal charges against journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias. (Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)

Malaysian reporter charged for commentary on Coronavirus

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In Malaysia this week, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court filed three charges against journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias relating to posts on her public Facebook account about the coronavirus health emergency. Hayati was charged under Section 505(b) of the country’s penal code, a criminal provision banning statements intended to cause “fear or alarm to the public” or “commit an offense against the State or public tranquility.” Malaysian authorities have detained at least five social media users in recent days for sharing alleged false information about the coronavirus outbreak.

In Iran, authorities raided the homes of four journalists over the past two weeks and confiscated documents and equipment. The raids come ahead of Iran’s parliamentary elections on February 21. On Thursday, a fifth journalist’s home was raided and his digital devices seized. Separately, a Tehran court found three local editors-in-chief guilty of “spreading false news and defamation.”

In Bangladesh, several journalists were attacked and harassed while covering elections in Dhaka, the capital, on February 1. At least 15 journalists were beaten, threatened, denied access to polling stations, or had equipment broken or taken.

Global press freedom updates:

  • Nigerian journalist Alex Ogbu dies at protest
  • Five Syrian journalists injured while covering clashes in Aleppo and Idlib
  • Pakistan broadcast regulator proposes sweeping control of internet news programs
  • Burundi court sentences four journalists from the news outlet Iwacu to two years and six months in prison
  • Israeli security forces arrest Palestinian journalist, injure another covering protests
  • Gambian radio journalists arrested, outlets shut down over protest coverage
  • Unidentified individuals shoot journalist’s home in Argentina
  • North Macedonia journalists threatened by government official
  • Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis handed suspended prison sentence for tweeting meme


(One Free Press Coalition)
(One Free Press Coalition)

This week, the One Free Press Coalition released its monthly list of journalists under threat around the world. The coalition was kickstarted by Forbes, CPJ, and the International Women’s Media Foundation, and aims to identify urgent press freedom cases each month. The coalition includes over 30 media outlets who use their collective reach to raise awareness of journalists on the list and shine a light on global press freedom threats.

This month, the list highlights 12 cases, including Azimjon Askarov, who is serving a life sentence in Kyrgyzstan; imprisoned Iranian journalist Arash Shoa-Shargh; and Cuban journalist Luz Escobar, who has been repeatedly barred from leaving her home by authorities.

Follow the conversation on social media with #OneFreePress.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker was launched by CPJ and partner organizations in 2017 to document press freedom violations in the United States. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the tracker will be updating this blog with cases of press freedom violations and incidents from federal candidates and their teams. To stay informed, sign up for the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s monthly newsletter here.

CPJ Emergencies has also developed a safety kit for journalists in the U.S. covering the elections. If you are a journalist covering the 2020 election, sign up for our #PressSafety2020 mailing list to receive safety advisories and updates from CPJ Emergencies.

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