PetroSaudi leaks and the permit revocation threat

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Ahmad Zahid Hamidi - Photograph: Wikipedia

The Home Ministry’s recent threat to revoke the publishing permit of The Edge over the 1MDB controversy if the business paper is found to have published false information is alarming and uncalled for.

Aliran is concerned that the Home Minister was over-reacting when he threatened to take action against the publication over an allegation that its reporting was based on ‘distorted’ data and emails leaked about 1MDB’s dealing with PetroSaudi International by its former director Xavier Justo, who is now under arrest in Thailand.

The Edge has been vigorously reporting this public interest case.

There are other legal avenues for the government to consider – apart from the Home Ministry taking the drastic action of revoking or suspending the publishing permit – if the Edge has indeed published deliberate disinformation.

The revocation or suspension of the publishing permit, provided for by the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), would have a chilling effect on the newspaper industry. It would also cause huge losses to the publisher as it would have to stop or suspend sales. Employees’ salaries may have to be cut while editors and journalists would have to face an uncertain future.

The insidious effect of the prospect of revocation or suspension has spawned a culture of self-censorship among many journalists and editors over the years. And this, without the ministry concerned even having to breathe heavily down the necks of publishers and journalists; so there would be conveniently no evidence of blatant ministerial intervention in the editorial management of news.

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Instead, a sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of editors and journalists, eroding the freedom of the press that is so vital to the development of a thriving democracy.

We therefore reiterate our long-standing position of calling on the government to repeal the obnoxious and undemocratic PPPA.

Dr Mustafa K Anuar
Aliran Honorary Secretary
27 June 2015

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