Gerakan secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow had on 7.9.2009 urged the government to abolish the annual licensing of newspapers immediately to promote a freer, fairer and more vibrant press in the country.He said in a statement that the need to renew the printing permit every year had in way affected the press to discharge its watchdog role impartially and effectively.
What Teng said was not something new as such call had always been made by the DAP and other Opposition parties as well as many NGOs.
DAP 's stand on this issue is very clear and consistent- that the annual licensing must be abolished. We have always , inside and outside the Parliament , fought for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publication Act ( PPPA) which makes annual permit renewal application mandatory for publishers and printers.
Media is considered as the fourth estate in a democracy. A free Press is needed for democracy to flourish. People can only make informed judgment and decisions if they are given the full information by the free and independent media. The people will not be able to obtain full information if there is no press freedom. And there cannot be press freedom so long the annual licensing requirement exists.
While the BN component parties do not have to rely on their party organs to spread their political messages, Opposition parties which need to do so through their party organs have also to face the undemocratic decision of the Home Ministry. Besides having to apply for annual permit renewal, Opposition party organs too have been imposed with unfair restrictions, the most unfair being the one which restricts the organs' circulation to Party members only.
After having suffered their worst electoral setback in the 2008 general election, Gerakan leaders have obviously decided that they should be bold and open in articulating political issues.
However, Gerakan will be making a mistake if they think that they will impress the voters merely by being bold and open in articulating issues. What voters want from a political party in power is results , and not just words.
If abolition of annual permit requirement for newspapers is indeed the policy of Gerakan, then their President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon must be prepared to raise the repeal of PPPA in the Cabinet.