The sudden suspensions of Suara Keadilan and Harakah for the next three months are blatant violations of the principle of freedom of the press. What is disturbing is that the move denies Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Pas – two opposition political parties whose fortunes are on the rise – their fundamental democratic right to disseminate their ideologies and views to their membership and the wider public. These suspensions are clearly meant to frustrate these parties from reaching out to and influencing Malaysians of all walks of life.
The suspensions are obviously politically motivated coming as they do in the run-up to three crucial by-elections, which would have a great negative impact on Najib should the Barisan Nasional be defeated. If the Pakatan were to win these three by-elections it would mean five straight losses for BN which would be a terrible and demoralising blow.
What’s also worrying is that the suspensions raise an equally important question: is this the shape of things to come under the new Najib administration?
The denial of press passes to a string of news websites intending to cover the on-going Umno general assembly seems to confirm this fear. The suspensions of the party organs and the denial of press passes can also be read as the administration trying to criminalise legitimate criticism, dissent and democracy.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar & Anil Netto
25 March 2009