World Press Freedom Day – 3 May

With the World Press Freedom Day looming so so near, it’s nice to see that even The Economist is paying some attention to Malaysian media.

Getting the word out

The past few weeks have seen some exciting developments in Malaysia, which despite being a democracy has had a shameful record of muzzling the press. In the general election in March, Malaysians abandoned the plodding, pro-government traditional media in droves and turned to the web—especially to a courageous and highly professional news site, Malaysiakini. Two prominent news bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Tony Pua, were elected for opposition parties. Both have been blogging live from parliament this past week as it convened following the election.

The ruling coalition’s narrow win has put the skids under Abdullah Badawi, the prime minister. As he fights to keep his job, he has belatedly started keeping some of the promises of reform he made when he first came to office in 2003, including loosening the state’s grip on the media.

On April 20th the government said it would give the People’s Justice Party, led by Anwar Ibrahim, the main opposition leader, a licence to publish its own newspaper—something the party had been requesting for almost ten years. Four days later the government decided that it would not, after all, ban Makkal Osai, a Tamil-language paper read by the country’s ethnic Indian minority. The home ministry had revoked its licence a week earlier. It did not explain why but the paper had given ample coverage to the opposition’s election campaign and to Hindraf, a group formed recently to campaign for the Indian minority’s rights.

Encouraged by the changed political climate, a Catholic newspaper, the Herald, has taken the government to court for prohibiting the paper from calling God by the name “Allah” in its Malay-language edition. A ruling is due within days but, of course, there is nothing to stop the government lifting the ban of its own accord, if Mr Badawi really does want to be seen as a reformer.

Full article here.

Tony Pua has written about what he felt when he found out he was mentioned in this article here.

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It is true that Malaysian media has changed drastically over the past couple of months. More so ever since the General Elections, with a surge of new bloggers, like me. But it’s not just the socio-political bloggers, but a range of politicians have also taken their first step into blogoshpere. We see names like Dr Mahathir, Khir Toyo, Mat Taib, and the likes. Then of course, we have other big names too, like Wong Chun Wai of The Star fame.

Everyone’s trying to have their own piece to say, and blogging seems to be one of the fastest, most effective ways of getting our views across. And hopefully, they open their sites to comments and feedback from the people in general. No point having a blog that only presents a one-sided point of view. And no point in “trying to connect with the youth”, when you delete their well-meaning comments. Shame on those who do that.

But blogging is blogging. Online news is online news. We need press freedom too. We want newspapers that are not politically affiliated. We want news that are not one-sided. We want news that are not biased. We want news that has not been filtered for the benefits of SOME people who are the bosses of these newspaper outlets.

Just like how we want a free and just judiciary that has no attachment to the politicians of the country, we want a free and just press that does not discriminate people by their political parties.



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