Opinion

The PPPA amendment — premature reaction?

Zan Azlee

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

JAN 28 — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein recently said people should not jump to conclusions about the intention to amend the country’s press laws.

According to our beloved home minister, it’s just a proposal and no final decisions nor details have even been brought up yet so don’t react prematurely.

Of course, we all know that this apparent “premature” reaction was caused by his secretary-general, Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam.

What did he do? He said that the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) should expand its scope to include “publications” online and blogs.

Now according to the PPPA, all media outlets are required to renew their publishing and printing permits annually.

New Media never had to deal with that because in 1995, our then prime minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, pledged that Malaysia would never censor the Internet.

It was a beautiful year indeed, and since then, I have to admit that the media scene in Malaysia has grown tremendously.

Traditional publications still had to deal with the PPPA, which kept them under a tight leash, but New Media saw a flourish of online news sites that challenged the norm.

And because of the impact caused by the New Media, the traditional media and everyone else are forced to keep on their toes.

That, to me, is a good indication that things were sort of heading in the right direction for the media landscape in my beloved country, Malaysia.

Of course, along the way, there were many glitches. The parties in power did all they could to try to bring New Media to their knees and to toe the line.

All kinds of harassments ensued. I remember one time when computers were confiscated from the premises of an online news organisation.

In fact, the parties in power even resorted to schoolyard bullying when they went all out to throw gigantic and intimidating law suits against individual bloggers.

But still, I and I’m sure many others, kept the faith that the Internet was still going to be our saviour when it came to media freedom.

So how can you blame me, and the rest, when we start to voice our concerns now that the government is even suggesting such an amendment to the PPPA?

I would shake my head in disapproval whenever I read news about how countries like China, Singapore, Egypt and Iran censored the Internet.

Quietly, deep in my heart, I actually smiled after shaking my head since I knew that we in Malaysia still have a fighting chance.

But today, in hindsight, I guess I was just jumping to conclusions and reacting prematurely.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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