By Patrick Lee
FULL REPORT PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry has suspended the printing permit of PKR organ Suara Keadilan.
The decision came three days after the ministry slapped the publication with a seven-day deadline to explain a controversial article.
“After discussing the matter yesterday, the ministry came to the conclusion that it is not satisfied with the answer given by Suara Keadilan,” said the ministry's al-Quran and text control department secretary Zaitun Samad in a statement.
According to Zaitun, the decision was made after reviewing the newspaper's reply to the ministry's show-cause letter on Tuesday regarding the “Felda Bankrupt” article in its June 22-29 edition.
She said the ministry received the reply on June 30 and held a meeting the next day to discuss the matter with regard to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
“We have sent a letter to Suara Keadilan's printers instructing them to discontinue publication until a decision is made regarding the paper's request for a permit renewal,” she added.
Lawyer: We're not surprised
Suara Keadilan's lawyer Shamsul Iskandar told FMT that he was not surprised by the ministry's decision.
He also claimed that Suara Keadilan never received the three show-cause letters supposedly sent by the ministry.
When Suara Keadilan met with ministry officials on Monday, they were told that it was not the ministry's responsibility to provide them with copies of the letters.
The paper was then told through Zaitun that it would be furnished with these letters for its benefit.
“It didn't matter, because they went ahead and suspended our permit,” Shamsul said. “We have fully cooperated with the ministry and asked for a bit of time to come out with the response to these letters.”
Shamsul also said that Suara Keadilan was not informed of the ministry's decision and had to learn about it through the media.
FMT also learnt that Suara Keadilan's editors would be attending a special meeting tonight regarding the matter.
Asked if the paper had the right to appeal against the decision, Shamsul said that it was possible but it was up to the ministry to consider it.
In an immediate response, PKR leader Tan Kee Kwong condemned the government's decision to suspend Suara Keadilan's permit.
"Nobody knows what the hell is going on. But when people want to tell the truth, you ban them," he said.
The former land and cooperatives deputy minister was the first to break the news on Felda's alleged cash reserve loss in early June.
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar described the ministry's decision as “a clear-cut example of political interference”.
“The Felda suit has yet to be heard in court, and the ministry has already taken action,” she said, referring to Felda's announcement yesterday that it would sue the PKR organ for RM200 million.
Nurul Izzah also criticised the government over its lack of seriousness in allowing media freedom in the country.
Asked if PKR expected the suspension, she said: “We were expecting the worst, but we did not think it would be as swift as this.”
Meanwhile, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) believes the home ministry's action was to send a message to the other publications.
“The ministry has control over all publications in the country. It is a consolidation of political power,” said Chuah Siew Eng, the CIJ publicity officer.
"The action against Suara Keadilan is a reminder to the other media (in the country) not to cross the line," he added.