Party organs should be saleable to all citizens

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The Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) strongly condemns the government for deliberately disapproving or delaying the renewal of publication permits for three opposition party organs, namely Suara Keadilan, Harakah and The Rocket.

To date, only Harakah’s permit has been renewed.

Wami holds that in a democracy where citizens are free to choose their reading material, party organs with narrow appeals cannot be sold beyond the circle of party loyalists even if the parties want to.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s assertion that the party organs must stick to the ministry’s guidelines and restrict their sales to party members only suggests that these party organs are actually popular beyond their membership.

And why would non-members spend their hard-earned money to buy overtly partisan views? The answer is simple: all mainstream media are now strictly controlled by the government through censorship and ownership made possible by restrictive laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

Opposition politicians are not only denied right to reply by government-controlled mouthpieces such as Utusan Malaysia, they rarely have any opportunity to appear positively on state-owned television and radio station.

Wami is also deeply concerned about the Home Minister’s announcement of the setting up of a
committee of truth<http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/7/10/nation/6643188&sec=nation>to stop dissemination of false news. In today’s circumstances, such a committee will become but another tool of the BN to control the media.

Wami calls upon Malaysian citizens to protest the attempts to stop the publication of the three party organs. Such attempts are not only discriminatory against the opposition parties, but more importantly, undermine the citizens’ right to be informed.

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All Malaysians should further press for a comprehensive reform of media laws, especially the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). We urge members of the public to write in to the PM and Home Minister to demand the lifting of the ban on the three party organs. The BN federal government should learn from and follow the example of Selangor, which has tabled Malaysia’s first Freedom of Information legislation.

Wong Chin Huat is the chairperson of Wami

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