A senior Malaysian journalist who quit his job at a leading newspaper said Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has cracked down on freedom of speech as it tries to limit the fallout from a graft scandal surrounding a state investment fund.
…A journalist’s responsibility is “first to the truth,” Mr. Mustapha wrote.
Investigators in at least seven countries are probing 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, a government investment fund Mr. Najib set up in 2009 to boost growth. Some investigators have said they believe $6 billion has gone missing.
Hundreds of millions of dollars originating from 1MDB allegedly moved into Mr. Najib’s private accounts via a web of offshore entities, and was spent on politics, jewelry and clothes, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing investigators and bank-transfer documents.
Mr. Najib’s government has banned newspapers it controls—which include the New Straits Times and the larger-circulation Malay-language Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia newspapers—from covering the 1MDB story, Mr. Mustapha said in an interview.
News releases from 1MDB denying stories in the Journal and calling into question its sources would sometimes come to the New Straits Times from the prime minister’s office with orders to run the statements in their entirety, according to Mr. Mustapha. The newspaper did as they were told.
“There are specific instructions to use this or that story, and we’re not allowed to question,” he said….Mr. Najib’s administration has cracked down on criticism of 1MDB in other ways. Last year, a former ruling-party politician was arrested on charges of economic sabotage after he called for an investigation into 1MDB. He was later released on bail.
“When an American newspaper…wrote a story that got nominated for the coveted Pulitzer Prize, about an issue that happened right under my nose, I began to seriously search my conscience and asked myself why I was in journalism in the first place,” he said.
source: Wall Street Journal