JUSTICE ABANG ISKANDAR HASHIM
Mkini Dotcom v Ministry of Home Affairs
We hope it will open the floodgates, every person has the right to print a paper
Leading counsel, Malaysiakini
The High Court has rejected the Home Ministry’s decision to disregard Malaysiakini’s application for a newspaper publishing licence and ordered the Minister to review the application again and make a considered decision.
In a stunning judgment, Justice Abang Iskandar Hashim quashed the Minister’s decision and agreed with Malaysiakini’s argument that the decision was ultra vires the constitution, improper in not following set procedures and unreasonable.
The judge upheld the principle that the fundamental liberty of free speech included the right to publish, and thus the right to a publishing permit as provided by law.
He held that the granting of a newspaper licence was not a privilege reserved to the government.
The judge held that the government had misconstrued the provisions of the Printing Presses and Publications Act by not applying to them the test of the constitutional guarantees of press freedom (Article 10 of the Federal Constitution).Malaysiakini had proposed publishing a daily newspaper of the same name with a circulation of 40,000 copies in the Klang Valley and at a cover price of RM1.
KDN refused the application in August 2010.
This evening, Malaysiakini chief executive Premesh Chandran said the company intended to take up its right to publish and would proceed with its plans.
“We will write again to the minister as soon as possible to reconsider our application … in light of the court’s decision today. We hope to be in print sooner rather than later”.
Today’s judgment is a slap in the face of the government, particularly of Umno’s propaganda and media manipulation teams based in Putrajaya which had alleged last week that Malaysiakini, the Centre for Independent Journalism and Loyar Burok activists of being part of a conspiracy to destabilise the government.
The lawyers in Malaysiakini’s team, K Shanmuga and Edmund Bon, are both at the forefront of Loyar Burok activism.
On Sunday, Utusan Malaysia columnist Awang Selamat (a pseudonym for its senior editors) had also demanded that Malaysiakini apologise to the Malaysian public for acccepting an investment from a company linked to financier and pro-democracy philanthropist George Soros.
Utusan and other Umno-linked media had launched a virulent campaign in recent days whipping up a frenzy about Soros and an alleged Jewish conspiracy together with US political agents to topple the Malaysian government.
Malaysiakini was also awarded RM5,000 costs in today’s judgment. It is not known at this point whether the Government will appeal against the decision, which was made on an application by Malaysiakini for a judicial review of the minister’s decision.
The Home Minister (Hishammuddin Hussein) had not rejected the application — he had decided merely not to consider it. The judge told Malaysiakini to submit its letter to the Minister and in effect ordered the minister to look at the papers and give a considered decision.
Activists at Pusat Rakyat LB, a centre run by Loyar Burok, described today’s decision as “a huge step in constitutional and administrative law”, as well as recognition that the struggle to further democratise Malaysia was an ongoing one.
Based on Tweets from Pusat Rakyat Loyar Burok and Malaysiakini’s legal team #MkinivGovt