COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
December 21, 2013
The Home Ministry has now denied that The Heat (pic) was suspended over its reports of a profligate administration but rather it was because the weekly had violated provisions in its printing permit.
If anything, that defence raises more questions than answers for Putrajaya. After all, was it a coincidence that a show-cause letter was only issued after the November 23 to 29 edition on hefty spending on travel and consultants by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak?
“This decision was not linked to The Heat’s recent report regarding the prime minister, and any accusations to the contrary are without merit,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.
The spokesperson said the suspension resulted from the publishing company violating provisions mandated under its printing permit, the Journal reported.
Home Ministry sources told The Malaysian Insider that the permit given to the publisher was for the publication of a magazine and not for newspaper printing.
Well, The Heat is a weekly newspaper and in some circles, that is a magazine.
More importantly, when did the ministry find out that it was not a magazine? It has had a run of 15 editions since entering the marketplace on September 6, 2013.
Isn’t it more alarming that it took the ministry nearly three months to figure out that The Heat was not a magazine as defined by it? Or is it just the weakest excuse to use when taking action against the weekly?
The sources also said that the show-cause letter had told the publisher to stop printing the weekly pending further instructions from the ministry but it was ignored.
“Because of that, the ministry had to issue another letter telling them to stop the publication until further notice,” the source told The Malaysian Insider.
Now, this is strange. The MCA-owned daily, The Star, had two show-cause letters issued over the last two years, over photographs of American singer Erykah Badu with tattoos that looked like the Arabic word for Allah and one more on a bak kut teh promotion in its Ramadan pullout.
On both occasions, the popular and most widely-read newspaper was not suspended. So why the different treatment for The Heat?
Where does it say that a newspaper or a magazine has to cease publication pending an investigation or reply to a show-cause letter?
It is time the Home Ministry comes clean on its processes for such matters. The Najib administration has liberalised publishing laws but some officials seem to be stuck in an earlier time, giving orders that do not make sense.
Or making excuses that are laughable if not for the wide powers that Putrajaya has used to shut down The Heat. Can the ministry at least explain why it had suspended The Heat?
Such arbitrary and arrogant use of power only puts the ruling government in bad light. National Union of Journalists president Chin Sung Chew had said that Malaysia, as a democratic country, should uphold media freedom.
“The media is the Fourth Estate and we have a responsibility to inform the public, especially if there is any abuse or wrongdoing by the government,” he had said.
He is right. And the government has the right to right the wrongs of any party but at the very least, do inform what the alleged mistake was.
Shutting down The Heat won’t cool the situation for the government. It will only make things hotter. – December 21, 2013.