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Malaysia falls 18 spots on press freedom index as ASEAN languishes

Reporters Without Borders warns of COVID providing pretext for censorship

A Malaysian ad against "fake news" in 2018: Reporters Without Borders says a new decree banning COVID-19 misinformation allows the authorities "to impose their own version of the truth."   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia plunged 18 places in Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom ranking for 2021 -- the steepest drop from last year among all countries -- as Southeast Asia remained mired toward the lower end of the index.

Malaysia placed 119th out of 180 countries surveyed by the organization known by its French acronym, RSF. Its "astonishing 18-place fall, the biggest of any country in the index, is directly linked to the formation of a new coalition government in March 2020," RSF said in an analysis attached to the ranking.

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