Najib says he doesn’t expect much of a political honeymoon – never mind the customary 100-day settling-in period for an incoming leader – in terms of the level of scrutiny he is likely to receive if he takes over as PM as planned.
But now we see the removal of a high level of media scrutiny for the prime minister-to-be.
The three-month suspension of the permits of Harakah and Suara Keadilan allows Najib an 84-day honeymoon (assuming he takes over from 1 April) from scathing criticism from the Pas and PKR party newspapers. It is a serious blow to press freedom in Malaysia.
Crucially, the suspensions will also severely handicap Pakatan’s attempts to reach out to the Malay-speaking rural voters in Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang during the by-elections campaigns from 29 March to 6 April.
Suara Keadilan, for instance, had put the BN on the defensive during the Kuala Terengganu by-election campaign in January. It front-paged a report headlined “Najib bohong” about unfulfilled campaign promises during the Permatang Pauh campaign last August. This forced the BN to take immediate action in Permatang Pauh to see to it that its campaign pledges to various religious centres were met, prompting a PKR source to quip, “It was the first time we saw the BN rushing to dish out help in a different constituency during a by-election campaign.”
The report, apparently, did not go down well with Umno leaders.
With a circulation of about 150,000, Suara Keadilan now has a reach that surpasses the New Straits Times’.
Keadilan Youth is also spearheading a nationwide “Say NO to Najib” campaign.