Home Ministry defends lengthy permit renewals

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 – The Home Ministry unit that renews publishing permits today broke its silence over its slow processing time, claiming its officers have to read every edition and also process more than 300 applications monthly.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties have lamented that the publishing and printing permits take almost a year to approve, pushing them to break the law by publishing without permits or using expired permits. There has been speculation that the government has denied permits to stop critical reports from being published.

The ministry’s Publications Control and Quranic Text secretary Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad told The Malaysian Insider hat her office had plenty to handle every month, adding her staff members were not deliberately prolonging the renewal application process.

“We do not only handle the publications permits, we also handle the printing licences. We also have to study the content of the publications before granting the approvals.

“When you have more than 300 applications to go through every month, it will definitely take a while,” she said in an interview today.

She said that the ministry did not only process applications for political party organs but for all publications that required permits, including magazines, brochures, bulletins and even newsletters.

“Even Giant (hypermarket) sends us their applications. So, you can just imagine the amount of work we have to do. We are not deliberately being slow so it is not fair to blame us for that,” she said.

Zaitun explained that the renewal process of a publication permit was not as simple as merely approving each application without properly studying the content of the publication.

“We have to go through one year’s worth of content before we decide on whether to grant the approval. That is just a standard operating procedure,” she said.

Zaitun added that this proved that the ministry was not unfair when reviewing the renewal applications it would first conduct a comprehensive study of each publication to see if it had contravened the ministry’s content guidelines before making its decision.

“We have to be fair. We cannot just reject their applications by reviewing one or two months’ worth of content.

“For example, if a printing permit expires in June, we cannot just review the May editions and decide from there. We have to go through everything to decide if it had reasonably complied with the ministry’s guidelines,” she said.

Zaitun also defended the ministry’s recent clampdown on opposition party organs, and said that the government, had always been “very, very lenient” with the parties throughout the years.