The two organisations call for a complete repeal of the PPPA.
The amendments, tabled for first reading in Parliament today, have removed the Home Minister’s absolute discretion over printing press licences as well as the printing and publishing of a newspaper.
Also, under the amendments, publishers will no longer have to renew their licences annually. A license will be valid until the minister revokes it, and the revocation can be challenged in court.
But the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) agree that these amendments were merely baby steps towards ensuring media freedom in Malaysia.
CIJ executive director Masjaliza Hamzah noted that printing permits would still be required and that the minister would have the right to revoke or suspend them. She said this meant that the government would still have effective control over the print media.
“This kind of control still gives power to executives to make decisions on who gets a permit,” Masjaliza told FMT.
“We welcome these minor amendments, but the fact that the PPPA needs to be amended and that there is a push to do so from within the government itself shows that the law is outdated and needs a complete review.”
CIJ pointed out in a press statement that newspapers would still be subjected to show-cause letters and that this could be used as a political tool by the ruling government, such as through the intimidation of editors. This would be inconsistent with the concept of a free media serving public interest through fair reporting, the statement added.
“The proposed amendments also do not address the fact that most major Malaysian newspapers are owned by political parties,” CIJ said.
“The PPPA in its entirety should be repealed and newspapers should be free to publish without the need for a government permit. There are sufficient laws in place to deal with newspapers that publish false news without the need for ministerial oversight.”
NUJ secretary-general V Anbalagan shares CIJ’s position. He believes that no union member would be satisfied with the amendments.
Anbalagan said the print media was already losing ground to online media and maintaining the current law would not stop the readership slide.
“The amendments are baby steps forward and we’re hoping that the government doesn’t rush through it,” Anbalagan said. “We don’t want piecemeal solutions this time.”
“Licences for newspapers should be completely and unconditionally removed. If the newspaper or a journalist has committed an offence then, let the courts deal with it.”
PPPA : Newspapers get longer leash