KUALA LUMPUR - The brother of Prime Minister Najib Razak has condemned the suspension of publishing permits of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, saying authorities should have taken legal action if there were errors in the reports.
"The Edge is a pillar of our business community- big role in keeping us informed, honest & competitive," Nazir Razak, who is CIMB group chairman, said in an Instagram post on Friday night.
"Recent 1MDB coverage seems outstanding but if there were flaws then correct them or take legal recourse," he said, referring to state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
"I condemn the suspension & my thoughts go to all affected staff," he added.
Nazir had spoken previously about 1MDB, calling for greater accountability from its top executives and urging the government to hasten an audit of the debt-ridden firm's 2015 accounts.
Malaysia's Home Ministry on Friday suspended the publishing permits of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months beginning July 27.
A letter from the ministry stated that the publications' coverage of 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".
Earlier this month, The Edge received a show-cause letter in which the ministry gave them seven days to explain why action should not be taken under the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984, the Malaysian Insider reported.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Secretary Schave Jerome De Rozario said the suspension was against freedom of the press and the decision was unfair because it was the responsibility of the press to report on news.
He told The Star newspaper that the media would not just publish something for "blatant gossip".
1MDB, he said, was still an ongoing issue so it was unfair to take action against the publications.
De Rozario said the NUJ was also concerned about the welfare of journalists and others affected by the three-month suspension. "Our hearts go out to them," he was quoted as saying.
In his response to the suspension notice, the publisher of The Edge, Ho Kay Tat, said: "We don't see how exposing the scam to cheat the people of Malaysia of billions of ringgit can be construed as being detrimental to public and national interest.
"This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up."
Mr Ho said the group would go to court and try to get the suspension lifted. He said the group's publications would continue to be available online.
The suspension has cast a chill among journalists as they wondered whether a wider crackdown on the media and government dissenters who wrote or spoke about 1MDB is coming.
The state investor, which racked up debts totalling RM42 billion (S$15 billion) in just five years, has become a political liability for the Prime Minister .
Najib has not denied the July 3 allegations by the Wall Street Journal and London-based website Sarawak Report that US$700 million (S$960 million) of 1MDB-linked funds were transferred into his personal accounts over the past two years, saying only that he has never used public money for personal gains.
Najib, who is also finance minister, chairs the advisory board of 1MDB.