I wish to express my deep concern and disquiet over news that the Home Ministry has denied the Edge Communications Sdn Bhd’s application for a newspaper permit for FZ.com.
This is a sudden and very strange move considering that the High Court has just granted the Edge Communications leave to commence judicial review proceedings against the Home Ministry over the Minister’s decision to defer the permit approval.
This latest affair comes very soon after The Heat newspaper was suspended for a few weeks by the Home Ministry.
The reasons the Ministry gave for the suspension of The Heat were very flimsy and opaque, raising the question of why the move was necessary in the first place.
The Home Ministry now owes Malaysians an explanation as to why it sees the need to reject granting FZ.com a licence.
Failure to do so will only confirm increasingly-held perceptions that Malaysia is a cold house for independent and balanced journalism. In the latest rankings for media freedom released by Reports Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres), Malaysia ranks at no. 147 in the world. This is the lowest in Malaysia’s history and we are even ranked lower compared to Myanmar!
Indeed, it is hard to interpret the recent spate of newspaper suspensions as suggesting anything other than stark proof that the Najib Razak Government is growing increasingly paranoid and intolerant of criticism.
This is highly ironic when one considers how this same administration is allowing certain so-called NGOs to air racist rhetoric and make threats of violence unfettered.
It also gives lie to the Prime Minister’s promises of transformation.
Malaysians can now judge how hollow these are, particularly the amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) which appears to have done little to protect the media from abuse of power and political caprice.
A free and balanced media is necessary for any society to function and prosper.
Malaysia can forget about becoming a developed nation without it.
The Government—if it is truly serious about reform and making lives better for Malaysians—must do away with the draconian provisions of the 1984 Act, ensure balanced coverage in the mainstream media and move to protect freedom of speech.