On PPPA – 3. Makkal Osai is back in business, but how about press freedom?

We must congratulate Makkal Osai for getting its publication permit renewed after suspension for a week.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Syed Albar said the appeal against the refused renewal was successful because “they have given an undertaking of responsibility and will ensure they abide by the guidelines and contribute to our nation-building efforts”.

It reminds me of a scene where the poor petty trader is allowed to be back in business after he paid the protection fee.

I am not sure therefore how other newspapers can feel free to publish what they professionally believe to be newsworthy.

I have often compared the state with mafia or triads for they all work on the logic of coercion. The only difference is that the state does that with legitimacy. The moment a state looses its legitimacy, it becomes like a gang of organized crime. On the other hand, when a mafia group gains legitimacy, they becomes like a government.

(Read Charles Tilly on “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime“. The interpretation above is mine.)

So, how legitimate is it for the state to regulate our press, in the name of ethnic harmony or whatsoever?

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

That was the words of Thomas Jefferson. He said it in 1787 before he became the United States’ third President (1801-1809). I doubt he has changed his stand on this.

In 1791, the American Congress passed and the states rectified the famous First Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Will Malaysia have her Thomas Jefferson one day who wants a genuinely free press?

The central problem with PPPA is the Minister’s “absolute discretion”.

The exact opposite of that is not even judicial review, but an as-far-as-possible “non-discretionary policy” on publication, any taker?

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