High Court quashes decision to suspend The Edge
Suspension of The Edge daily, weekly lifted
Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad in allowing the judicial review application said the respondent (minister) had breached Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
"The respondent did not comply with procedural fairness as he did not give particulars of suspension to the applicant," she said.
The judge said the minister had taken irrelevant consideration to impose a blanket ban of three months. The Home Ministry had suspended the publishing permit of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months effective from July 27.
Asmabi said the respondent should have been more careful to issue the order as it had affected the livelihood of those employed by the applicant.
She said the court would assess damages to be awarded later and also gave RM15,000 in costs.
In an immediate response, lawyer Darryl Goon said the publisher, The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd, could begin publication of the two papers immediately as there were no stay application by the government.
Senior federal counsel Alice Loke Yee Ching told reporters that she had to take instructions from her superiors before a decision was made to appeal.
“We have a month to do so.”
A cursory glance at Asmabi’s ruling revealed that the court accepted in totality the submission put forward by Goon.
A letter from the ministry stated that the papers’ coverage of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interests”.
This is the first time a publisher is seeking legal recourse and won, following the suspension of its coverage of debt-ridden 1MDB.
Ministry secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, had in a statement on July 24, said the suspension of the publications was made after the ministry had scrutinised their reports on 1MDB and the reply to the show-cause letter issued earlier.
The ministry gave three reasons for suspending the publications, which it said, violated Section 7(1) of the PPPA.
It said the headings and reporting by the two publications had raised questions and created negative public perceptions towards 1MDB, a Finance Ministry-owned firm, and implicating the government and national leaders.
Second, it also found the reports to be based on doubtful and unverified information, which it said might alarm public opinion and might be prejudicial to public order and national interests.
Third, the ministry said the 1MDB issue was being investigated by a special task force and it was, therefore, inappropriate for reportage on the issue to create negative perceptions.
Goon, in his submission on September 7, said the suspension order on grounds they carried undesirable reports was illegal as the order was not published in a gazette.
He said under Section 7(1) of the PPPA, an undesirable publication could only be prohibited by order of the minister published in a gazette.
“This was not done so in this case, therefore, the suspension is illegal because there was no breach of Section 7(1).”
Goon said the publisher took the position that the decision to suspend was illegal and ultra vires, and was also unconstitutional. He said under the constitution, the only permissible restriction to the right to freedom of speech and expression are if it was in the interest of:
* the security of the federation, friendly relations with other countries and public order and morality; and,
* to protect the privileges of Parliament.
“None of the grounds given by the minister come within the ambit of these permissible restrictions,” he said in the judicial application to challenge the suspension.
Goon said the suspension was a breach against natural justice and the publisher was not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard. – September 21, 2015, Malaysian Insider