KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 11, 2008):
The Home Ministry has issued show-cause letters to three newspapers -- Sin Chew Daily, theSun and Suara Keadilan -- giving them seven days to state why action should not be taken against them over the nature of their news coverage.
The letters were signed by Publications Control and Al-Quran Text Division secretary Che Din Yusoh. theSun received its letter this morning.
Che Din told theSun the three newspapers were asked to show cause for violating guidelines under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
He said they were identified based on their study and monitoring of the issues highlighted by these newspapers. He said they are also monitoring all other publications.
Top-selling Chinese vernacular newspaper Sin Chew Daily received its letter yesterday, its editor-in-chief Pook Ah Lek, confirmed in a telephone interview.
He said: "We will give a response accordingly within the 7-day time frame given."
Although he declined to elaborate on the content, it is learnt the letter did not spell out specific news reports that were objectionable.
The newspaper recently found itself in the news over its three-paragraph report on what Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad said at a political ceramah during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign on Aug 23.
Suara Keadilan, a fortnightly newspaper belonging to Parti Keadilan Rakyat, also received its letter today, but it is not known what the content is.
On Thursday, at a buka puasa gathering, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had told reporters that the Ministry had served show-cause letters to several media firms bent on creating tension among the people.
"Any media which we see have breached the conditions and guidelines, will be told to show cause and the reply must be made within a week.
"They should not consider the show-cause letter as our attempt to impose a restriction. We owe the responsibility to the society in general to ensure conflicts do not occur and anger is not prompted as a result of what we write about race, religion or even culture."
This development follows the recent spate of reports over the Ahmad Ismail saga, after his alleged racist remarks about the Chinese caused MCA and Gerakan leaders to react by calling for him to apologise and for action to be taken against him.
Umno supreme council on Wednesday suspended him for three years. BN component party leaders have since accepted the punishment and said this episode should serve as a lesson to all.
Syed Hamid Albar also said his Ministry has served a reminder on all media practitioners to follow the guidelines stipulated by the government.
Bernama quoted him as saying that the reminder was issued shortly after the Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) withdrew the ban on several websites, including Malaysia Today.
"Most importantly, while we want freedom and openness, we must also bear the responsibility as Malaysians to ensure peace and public order and prevent people from inciting and humiliating others and breaking the law," he said.
"So, it is a warning or a reminder and after it has been served, I hope it will raise the awareness because the power of the media, be it blogs, in prints or electronic to influence the society in general is very deep and significant."
Syed Hamid said the move to restrict access to several websites was not intended as a penalty but just a careful measure because of concern that they could bring about tension and undermine public order.