Saturday 8 February 2014

Approved, deferred and now, REVOKED

My Say by Tong Kooi Ong (The Edge issue Feb 10-16, 2014)

On Oct 7, 2013, I wrote in the Forum pages about the need to reject corporate kings working hand in hand with political elite to stop competition and argued that we should instead be pushing for fair competition and economic inclusion.

When the private sector is allowed to operate freely and competitively, the people and the nation benefit from greater efficiency, innovation, lower costs and superior products and services. 

An example I used was the application by The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd for a publishing permit to print a general daily newspaper called FZ Daily.

On Aug 20, 2013, the Home Ministry (KDN) approved the licence.  But one week later on Aug 28, we received another letter from the Ministry saying that the license approved just over a week earlier was now “deferred”.  No reason was given and neither was there any indication for how long.

I believe I know the reason and explained it in my column on Oct 7 last year.

Two months later, we wrote to the Ministry for an explanation. We did not receive any response.

On Nov 19, our lawyers filed an application for judicial review and the affidavit in support. In other words, we asked the Court to decide on the legality of the actions taken by the Ministry.

On the morning of Feb 5, 2014, The Edge’s application for leave to commence judicial review proceedings was heard before Justice Datuk Zaleha Yusof.  The Attorney General's Chambers did not object and leave was granted.  

In the afternoon, The Edge received a letter from the ministry saying that the FZ Daily licence has been REVOKED. The letter was dated Jan 21, 2014. Again, no reason was given.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 was amended in 2012 on the prime minister’s expressed desire for greater press freedom. After all, Malaysia prides itself on being a beacon for democracy and a global voice for moderation.  And freedom of the press is integral to any democratic and free society.

Under Section 13 of the Act, the minister can revoke a printing permit if the said publication contains anything that is prejudicial to public order or national security. But since FZ Daily never even had the opportunity to go to print, the decision to revoke the permit could not have been made under this section of the Act.

Section 6 (2) is the only other option for the revocation of a printing permit issued by KDN. This section states “The Minister may at any time revoke or suspend a permit for any period he considers desirable”.

I do not believe the law intends to give any one person such absolute discretion. It would contradict the democratic values and principles we so proudly proclaim to have.  We must expect that in any fair and just society, there will be reasonable grounds for a particular action taken by the authority.

But what reasonable grounds could there have been for the ministry to approve, defer and then revoke the permit for FZ Daily before the first copy even hit the stands?

To say I am intrigued by this whole affair is an understatement.  But what else is there to say in this MY SAY?

Chronology of events

Oct 19            The Edge applies for a permit for Fz Daily
Oct 31            Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) asks for a revised mock-up and printer’s licence
Nov 1             The Edge supplies the mock-up
Nov 2             The Edge faxes a copy of printer’s licence to KDN
Nov 9             KDN confirms the application is being processed

Aug 20           KDN grants a one-year approval and asks for 
                       payment of licence fee
Aug 22          The Edge makes a payment of RM2,000 to KDN
Aug 28           KDN “defers” the license approved
Oct 31            The Edge writes to KDN for an explanation
Nov 19           The law firm representing The Edge - Raja Daryl and Loh - files an application for  judicial review and an affidavit in support
Nov 25            Hearing date fixed for Feb 5, 2014, before Yang Arif Datuk Zaleha Yusof for  leave to seek judicial review
Dec 9             Cause papers are served on the Attorney General’s Chambers

Feb 5(am)     The Edge’s application for leave to commence judicial review proceedings is heard before Justice Zaleha. The AG's Chambers did not object.  Leave is granted.
Feb 5(pm)      KDN letter arrives.  The licence for Fz Daily dated Aug 20, 2013, has been revoked. See KDN letter attached.
Letter from KDN


  1. What is there to say? You and your planned general daily are not welcome as new competitors to established print media who are already suffering circulation declines due to onslaught of internet media.

  2. Geram! Where is Geramm?

  3. Hi Tong! It's been a while! Haven't been in contact for a long long time! Well said! Over time, perhaps Malaysia will fall in the World Competitive Index -- companies will find it hard to be innovative in such an environment! Investors will find less reason to visit. Stay well!