Call for repeal of PPPA as amendments to draconian press law are “baby steps” if Najib is serious about wanting Malaysia to be world’s best democracy

We welcome the amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) to remove the annual licensing for newspapers as well as to provide for judicial review for the exercise of the Ministerial powers under the Act.

However, the manner in which the PPPA Amendment Bill is being rushed through Parliament, with very limited and inadequate debate in the early hours of the morning, the tabling of the Bill only on Wednesday and without any consultation with the concerned stakeholders, raise serious questions as how serious is the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in wanting to usher in a political transformation and make Malaysia the world’s “best democracy”.

The PPPA amendments are just “baby steps” if the Prime Minister is serious about Malaysia becoming the world’s “best democracy”. What we want is for the total repeal of the PPPA as there are adequate existing laws to deal with any press abuses.

Last month, the Prime Minister claimed that his three-year premiership had brought about more media freedom which has been acknowledged internationally. This is a most self-serving argument.

True, Malaysia’s Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 according to international watchdog Reporters Without Borders has moved up 19 places to 122nd placing compared to 141st ranking in the 2010 index.

But this is not because of anything that Najib has done to bring about as “transformation” in media freedom in his three years as Prime Minister. In actual fact, Malaysia had performed worse in the area of press freedom in 2011 compared to the year before, with a worse score for press freedom as compared to the previous years.

Malaysia has been able to improve its press freedom ranking despite a worsening press freedom score solely thanks to the downward spirals in other countries wracked by unrest, like the 29-place plunge of Indonesia because of violence against newspapers.

Malaysia press freedom score is miles behind top Asian country Japan, ranking 22nd out of 179 countries, and second highest-ranked Asian country Hong Kong at number 54.

There have been many negative developments inimical to the expansion of media freedom in the past year under Najib’s premiership, including:

*Malaysia was again refused a newspaper licence.

*A television cameraman died on duty in hostile conditions in a needless and shadowy adventure sponsored by a member of the Prime Minister’s Department.

*Nanyang Siang Pau and the Star were hounded by the Home Ministry for errors that impingeed on religious sensitivies, while Utusan Malaysia whipped up racial and religious tensions with abandon.

*Media Prima took over the New Straits Times Press, and the prime minister’s press secretary was appointed to a senior editorial position to supervise NSTP newspapers, further concentrating press ownership and control.

This is why journalist organisations in the country are unimpressed with the PPPA amendments and are calling for an outright repeal of the law.

Centre for Independent Journalism (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. This meant that the government would still have effective control over the print media as the Executive will make the decisions on who gets a permit.

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.”

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretary-general V Anbalagan is of the same view. He said said the print media was already losing ground to online media and maintaining the current law would not stop the readership slide.

He said: “The amendments are baby steps forward and we’re hoping that the government doesn’t rush through it. 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.”

Is the government prepared to heed these calls for genuine media freedom reforms?

(Speech on the Printing Presses and Publications (Amendment) Bill in Dewan Rakyat on Thursday, 19th April 2012)

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 5:22 pm

    ///Is the government prepared to heed these calls for genuine media freedom reforms?///

    We all know the answer to this question. So one should not put too much hope on media reform in Bolehland as long as BN takes power. The opposition should instead come up with more creative websites to improve readership. For example, crossword puzzles and quizzes may be included at the end of the online article (e.g. Who created PPPA? (5 points). Why was it created? (5 points). How is PPPA going to affect freedom of expression? (10 points). Those who score 15 points and above will be given a 2013 calendar.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 7:19 pm

    The Govt. never listen to the People …unless they feel by not listening ….they will loose more votes.
    It takes them decades to advance like a snail for he better.
    They have no choice.

  3. #3 by mauriyaII on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 9:28 pm

    PPPA is an anachronism in a modern world where there are enough to handle sedition, defamation, slander, fraud and all the other manifestation illegal in a law abiding country.

    Why the need to revoke the printing license of a newspaper for discriminatory, hostile or even malicious content with the intent to rouse up hatred in the country. All the above can be handled by an impartial Judiciary without revoking the license or putting the author of the article and the editor behind bars using the ISA.

    There is no paucity of laws in the land to tackle any and all types of infringement of the laws of the nation.

    If the country needs any much needed law, that would be curb any political party from highjacking the print and electronic media into a monopoly. The mass media needs to be revamped and political brainwashing the citizens in favour of any political party should be stopped and made into a crime.

    Press freedom should be like the ones practised in most of the democracies of the world where the citizens are treated as a well informed, knowledgeable lot capable of knowing what is right and wrong. The choice of reading material should be left to the individuals without interference from Big Brother.

    In fact freedom of the press should be the resounding mantra of the journalists and the news community.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 11:30 pm

    I really wonder why PR MPs supported BN’s move to ‘stop the clock’ and let the day run up to 27 or 28 hours or so for April 19.

    Earlier PR MPs had complained that the BN was rushing and bulldozing a whole bundle of Bills for Parliament’s approval on the last day of sitting. They had complained that this was done for the benefit of the BN itself for the coming 13th GE. They had complained that they had no time to study the Bills in detail and to provide meaningful debates.

    Yet when the clock began to strike 12 midnight, it was stopped to extend the day beyond 24 hours.

    Why didn’t the PR MPs object to it? They could have played a number on the BN by suddenly mustering enough members to defeat the motion. There were not many BN MPs present and certainly not many MPs present at that time to provide meaningful debates on the important and seemingly obnoxious Bills.

    Let the Bills be not passed and transferred to the next sitting or next Parliament.

    By extending the time, the PR MPs could themselves be blamed for the passage of these Bills.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 7:07 am

    UmnoB/BN showed us Y they r NOT FIT 2 rule d nation n MUST b kicked out, replaced
    They r dangerous, irresponsible when they hv numbers 2 push through things in d parliament

  6. #6 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 9:53 am

    Oh wait wait wait. Look. Malaysia is already the world’s best democracy. Jib told us that. In other words, there are no better democracy anywhere in the world today. And now with this new development (you may call it baby steps) we are, well I suppose LAGI BEST!

    Yeah. The world’s only lagi best democracy!


  7. #7 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 11:29 am


    Read on. FMT: 20 April 2012.

    ///KUALA LUMPUR: Election watchdog Bersih condemned the amendments to the Election Offences Act 1954, which it said paved the way for the dirtiest general election yet.

    Chief among its concern, are four changes the to Act, which Bersih says will inevitably make the voting process less transparent.

    One of the changes, to Section 26 1(e), effectively rules out candidates or their staff from verifying IC numbers of voters which is vital to detect phantom or multiple voters.

    “Part of Section 26 1(e) which allowed for the checking of identities of anyone entering the polling centre has been removed altogether.

    “This means that candidates and their staff are not allowed to verify the identities of voters or even to check if they are at the correct polling stations,” said Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga.

    She added that the current 50-metre exclusion zone from the polling centres has now been extended to 100 metres or any distance that the EC may deem fit.

    “This makes it impossible for election monitors to spot illegal going-ons and it also makes it impossible to see if voters are marked with indelible ink after they have cast their votes.

    “What’s the point of the indelible ink? Who is to know if these voters are voting for the second time under the new amendments?” asked Ambiga.

    Wong Piang Yow, founder of Tindak Malaysia, who has been training independent polling agents for the past year, said the amendments have made all the training redundant.

    Changes have also been made to the sitting arrangement of polling or counting agents at polling centres. The changes were gazetted on Feb 14 along with the use of indelible ink.

    Agents now are only allowed to sit about 10 metres away from where polling takes place. Wong argued that this distance made it close to impossible to identify if the voter was a valid one.

    The other changes

    Other changes to the Election Offences Act 1954 which could cause a hindrance to election observers are:

    •To Section 14 1 (A) which now allows the Election Commission to allocate time slots to determine when a candidate’s polling agents or counting agents may be present.
    Candidates no longer fix a time when an agent is allowed into the polling station. The EC is free to remove the agents from polling stations.

    Both Bersih and Tindak argued that polling agents are providing their services on a voluntary basis and may not be available for the time slots which the EC dictates.

    •To Section 26 A (sub-sections 2 and 3 are deleted) which now means that there will be no more “Barong Observers”.
    Barong Observers are the only outsiders besides EC staff allowed to vet the IC numbers. It serves as a “preliminary screening” to weed out phantom voters.

    This amendment, says Bersih, is a “major blow” to plans to weed out phantom voters as only EC personnel are now allowed to check ICs.

    •Section 11, which requires all printed materials to have names and addresses of the printers and publishers, is removed.
    Ambiga said that anyone now can put up “anonymous, defamatory, racist or sexist posters” (during campaigning) without identifying the publisher or the printer.

    “These amendments, introduced at this late stage and bulldozed through Parliament, makes a mockery of our electoral process.

    “It also makes a mockery of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) as these amendments were hidden from them,” said Ambiga, referring to the committee’s findings and recommendations to the government earlier this month.

    Ambiga said that she had no doubt that these changes will be enforced before the upcoming polls due to the “unholy haste” in which the bill was passed yesterday in the Dewan Rakyat.

    “Let (the government) come out and say otherwise. Let them say that this bill will not affect the process of the coming election,” she said.

    Bersih, said Ambiga, reiterates its call for the EC office-bearers to resign immediately as they have failed to uphold the people’s demands for free and fair elections.

    “In fact, it is unashamedly doing the opposite,” she said. “If anyone had any doubts that Bersih 3.0 is necessary, that doubt is now dispelled with this latest move.”

    “These amendments confirm our worst fears that the 13th general election will be the dirtiest yet,” she added.///

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