|Do away with laws that hinder press freedom|
|Monday, 19 September 2011 09:04am|
©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Himanshu Bhatt
GEORGE TOWN (Sept 18, 2011): Media bodies have called on the government to do away with all laws and policies that hinder press freedom, following the Prime Minister’s announcement that news organisation would no longer need to apply annually for publishing permits.
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s “minor concession” in removing the requirement for an annual publishing permit in the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) does not address other infringements on freedom of expression within the PPPA itself.
In a statement, CIJ noted that under section 5 of the PPPA, the Malaysian government still holds power over permits to publish newspapers.
“The Home Minister has sole power to grant or deny applications, revoke permits which have been issued (which according to the PM’s announcement will not have to be renewed annually), and set conditions before issuing them,” it said.
“There is no recourse to judicial review of the Home Minister’s decisions regarding the permits,” it added.
It also stressed that under Section 7 of the PPPA, the Home Minister controls all publications (defined as books, articles, music, photographs, caricatures, reports, notes and so on) in the country and can issue bans on those it deems “undesirable”.
“The net effect is that the media, print in particular, will continue to be under government control, and journalists will continue to practise self-censorship,” the CIJ stressed.
It also said the Prime Minister needs to clarify whether the government plans to widen the scope of the PPPA to include online media, which would contradict its commitment to Internet freedom.
Meanwhile, the Penang Chinese Reporters and News Photographers Association (Pewaju) welcomed Najib’s announcement although it felt it had come “27 years too late”.
Pewaju called on the government to abolish other relevant acts that restrict media freedom, as the PPPA, Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the Sedition Act, and introduce a Freedom of Information Act.
It urged the government to issue a clear time frame for the removal of the laws, while expanding the rules for new publishing license applications so that anyone who is interested can apply
"We also hope the Prime Minister will guarantee that news coverage of competing political parties would be allowed to be made equitably (in mainstream media)," Pewaju said.
It also called on the government to release all ISA detainees and give proper compensation to those who have been held, since the government has given a commitment to repealing the legislation.
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