Many people wonder if Section 25(1) of PPPA can allow a newspaper exempted by a state government to be circulated nationwide. I believe the answer is yes. Below is my take on the technicality. Not trained in law, I am happy to be corrected by the well-learned amongst you.
For obvious reason of administrative convenience, and under the assumption that the state governments will not work against the wish of the Federal Government, the PPPA has its Achilles’ heel in Section 25(1) which states:
“Nothing in this Act shall extend to the publication or making of any documents or periodical by or for the Federal or any State Government or any statutory body.”
While the subsection covers only publication and making and is silent on circulation, the expressed requirement for circulation, independent from publication, is not effectively provided by the Act.
While Section 5(1) requires “a permit under paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) of section (6)” for the circulation or distribution of any newspaper printed in Malaysia or Singapore, Section (6)(1) has no provision on circulation alone:
“The Minister may in his absolute discretion grant –
(a) to any person a permit to print and publish a newspaper in Malaysia; or
(b) to any proprietor of any newspaper in Singapore a permit allowing such newspaper to be imported, sold, circulated or distributed in Malaysia.”
Likely, the drafter of the Act assumed that independent control of circulation is not necessary if control is effectively imposed at the publication stage.
Haris provides a better angle on this. He points out that the newspapers as defined in the Section 2 “does not include any publication published by or for the Federal or any State Government or the Government of Singapore”, regardless if the periodical is “printed in any language for sale or free distribution at regular or irregular intervals”.
Either of our interpretations makes Section 25(1) a blanket exit clause.
Any State Government can therefore render most of the PPPA, especially the license and permit requirement, futile by exploiting Section 25(1), and free the print media industry in Malaysia.