Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting ideas for WPFD2008

Hi all,
We know we are a bit early, but better to start thinking soon of what to do next year. CIJ is open to ideas on how we can celebrate World Press Freedom Day. We have some ideas, like organising gigs in different places, a press freedom tour and exhibition, people's forum and handing a memo to Suhakam, just to remind them that they haven't done much about promoting press freedom in Malaysia ().

So, if you have any ideas, just let us know, post your comments and we'll try to organise fun and serious stuff! We've seen cool ideas here from Loesje and takebackthetech, just to name a few.

Cheers, and a Happy New Year.

Executive Director, CIJ

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Pictures from WPFD People's Arts Fest

The instant expert goes instantly!

The ComeBack Kings "teaching" the public about press freedom

Exhibition on communication rights

At the poetry reading session...Han, Melissa and Sharon

Zunar and his political cartoons

50 years on...the untold stories of workers

Mei Chern playing at the concert

A real the plan and on to the stage! Azmyl Yunor Press freedom or nothing at all

By Bede Hong
7 May 2007
The children were tasked to draw anything they wanted. Freedom of expression. From self portraits to seashells, the results were as varied as the opinions of adults that hovered over them.

As many parts of the world observed World Press Freedom Day last Thursday, it passed without a major blip on Malaysia’s calender.

The few who did pay attention converged at the Central Market over the weekend, where events where held as a reminder of what the country has yet to achieve.

Political cartoonist Zunar, who exhibited his work at the Annex building, said real changes come through a change of government.

Noted for his stinging cartoons, Zunar is an unabashed Opposition man. He is editor-in-chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s newspaper Suara Keadilan.

Blogging, the new force

His cartoons, banned by mainstream media, finds its way to the public through malaysiakini and several other alternative publications.

“The media is one with the government. I don’t think this government is willing to change. Since they don’t want to change, the best way is for a new government to be elected into power,” he said.

“The mainstream needs to do their part. If they don’t the only way to affect them is to ignore them. We don’t want their news,” he said.

In the case of a boycott, Zunar offers bloggers as the alternative “news providers.”

“They are a new force to be reckoned with,” he said.

Blogger Ahirudin Attan or Rocky's Bru while supporting this, said there should be some constraints.

The former executive editor of the Malay Mail, currently facing multi million ringgit suit by News Straits Times Press (NSTP) Holdings, disagreed with a total repeal of all laws concerning the press.

“There is a need for [certain elements] of the laws,” he said, referring to the 30 odd laws that govern the local press, including the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications (PPP) Act.

Free up the press

It was not so for Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Sonia Randhawa.

“There is no way that press freedom and the PPPA can exist together. You can't have more freedom or less freedom. You either have freedom or you don't,” she said.

She said power comes from defining the limitations on the press. How comments could be determined as an insult by those in power is an example, she said.

“We need to take examples from countries that have a history of peaceful co-existence [among groups]. The only way to achieve this is to free up the press, talk about issues, talk about problems,” she said.

All laws that govern the press must be repealed, she added.

The World Press Freedom Day was organised by CIJ, Traubadours Enterprise and malaysiakini. In addition to the arts workshop for kids, there was poetry reading and screening of several documentaries on discrimination.

A dozen children of Kampung Berembang settlers who were evicted by developers early this year, held a ‘wayang cardboard’ on Saturday night. They played out the eviction.

Also performing at nights were Panda Head Curry, Pak Pandir, Azmyl Yunor, Mei Chern, Modar, Peter Brown, Tan Sei Hon, Kamasutra and local rock band Carburetor Dung.

Watch a 10-minute video clip here.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

In case you missed the flyer...

Drawing in kids to express themselves

By Chai ML

The painting clearly shows a smug, white cat bathed in a background of light and dark brown hues.

The painter Tan See Ling asked me what I thought of it.

A non-connoisseur’s reply?

Simple. The use of soft pastel colours coupled with short, delicate brush strokes which make up the cat, and a pink ribbon wrapped around its neck show a painting lavished in feminine touches.

A contented feline drawn by a female artist, I said, with the same expression donned by the cat.

Tan motioned to me to observe the backdrop of the artwork more closely. I ran my fingers over, and realised how coarse and thick the brown splatter of paint was.

It was done out of sheer force and all spurred by negative feelings, said Tan.

Obviously, the cat couldn’t be that contented.

“Surrounded by the filth of the world, which is represented by the colour brown, the cat closes its eyes and looks away. It remains pure and untainted,” she said.

I couldn’t help but mull over how off on a tangent my answer had been.

Sensing my thought, Tan gave me a reassuring smile.

“It wasn’t wrong. Your opinion was not wrong,” she said.

“But surely it is! You are the painter. No one knows the painting more than you do,” I exclaimed.

“Yes, I’m the painter, but what you see belongs to you. Art embraces freedom. It gives me the freedom to express how I feel, but also accords you the freedom to view it the way you want.

“The artist is obviously conveying something to the viewers through his/her work. Shouldn’t we get the same message when we are viewing the same piece of art?

“Of course not. An artwork, no matter how directly presented, is open to interpretations. A painter knows that his/her work invokes in different people various sort of feelings and thoughts. That’s the beauty of art, and many artists use this ambiguity to hint on what they feel without being too direct, with hopes that the audience would be able to ‘read between the lines’. Doesn’t this strike a chord in you how similar art is to the printed word?

“Yes, both are a form of expressions.

“Correct. And why use the short term measure of shooting down an opposing idea directly when you can create an avenue for the public to think and judge for themselves on issues surrounding their life by using subtlety?”

For art teacher Tan See Ling, art is everything freedom – the freedom to express, to convey a message, to hold differing opinions, and to believe in what one truly feels.

No one has the right to dictate how you should feel or think about an art piece, much the same as issues like democracy and freedom of expression, she said.

The art instructor in the Turkish International School imparts this in her classes and also during lessons in her Thumb Art Studio in Taman Segar Perdana by allowing her students, ranging from toddlers to adults, ample space to string their thoughts together, find their own voice and convey them in their own way.

And what best way to encourage individuals to embrace freedom and acknowledge their rights other than starting them young?

Note: Tan See Ling will be holding art activities for children on Saturday and Sunday, 5 and 6 May at 11am in CM.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Talk on critical cartoons by Zunar

Political cartoonist Zunar will be having a special discussion on critical cartoons on Sunday 6 May from 5pm - 7pm at the Annexe@Central Market.

Zunar has published his collection titled "Cartoons on Tun...and others"

Followers of Zunar from his early days in Gila-Gila, Berita Harian and now Malaysiakini will be able to chat with him on the use of critical cartoons as part of their freedom of expression.

Speaking at the launch of his book "Cartoons on Tun...and others", Zunar said he does not draw merely for laughs.

“I don’t draw just for laughs. I draw so that people would laugh and think. I’d like to think of myself as a drop of water in the ocean but at least I am able to create a ripple or even a wave,” he added. (Excerpt from malaysiakini report)

Zunar's exhibits of some of his works will be up at the Annexe workshop area the whole of Sunday. He will meet his fans and have his discussions at 5pm.

Activism your own way

D.I.Y Aktivisma!

What in the world is an activist? Do you need a collective? Must you join an NGO? Is it necessary to have lots of button badges, chant slogans and hang out at demos?

Uhm… we don't really know. But we reckon activism is whatever happens when someone does, says or thinks of something that doesn't just involve the individual, but the larger context that we exist in. Something about relationship between the self and other people, public institutions like the media, school or government, animals small and big, air, water, sky or trees.

But hey, what do we know. Come hang out with us during the World Press Freedom Day Art Fest at Central Market, and set us straight :)

In the meantime, we'll also be sharing skills like silk-screen, stenciling, playing with masks, illustrations and more! Oh, and a session on what to do when the police tries to arrest you (of course)

DoItYourself Aktivisma is happening at:

When? Saturday, 5 May 2007
Time? 4pm
Where? Central Market, between the main building at the Annex
Who the heck are we?
More info?


D.I.Y. Aktivisma!

Apa benda tu aktivis? Perlu ada kolektif? Mesti join NGO? Kena pakai berpuluh-puluh button badge, sahut slogan-slogan semua dan lepak kat demo?

Uhm… kami pun tak tahu sebenarnya. Tapi, kami rasa, aktivisma berlaku apabila sesiapa melakukan, berkata atau memikirkan tentang apa-apa benda yang melibatkan bukan saja seseorang individu, tapi konteks yang lebih besar. Tentang perhubungan di antara diri-sendiri dengan orang lain, insitusi awam spt sekolah, media atau kerajaan, binatang2 yang comel dan juga hodoh, air, udara ataupun pokok.

Tapi bukannya kami tahu apa-apa. Datang pada Pesta Seni Hari Kebebasan Akhbar Sedunia dan ajarler kami apatu sebenarnya aktivisma :)

Pada masa yg sama, kita akan berkongsi pengetahuan tentang silk-screen, stensil, main2 dgn topeng, ilustrasi dsbgnya. Oh, dan juga (semestinya) sesi tentang hak2 asas bila ditahan polis.

DoItYourself Aktivisma akan berlaku pada:

Bila? Sabtu, 5 May 2007
Masa? 4pm – 6pm
Dimana? Pasar Seni, di antara Annex & bangunan utama
Kami ni siapa?
Nak tahu lagi?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Coverage in The Star Metro

Monday April 30, 2007

Highlighting press freedom through the arts


WORLD Press Freedom Day (WPFD) will be celebrated at Central Market on May 5 and 6 and the public can learn about press freedom and freedom of expression through the arts.

This year’s event, themed Saving Journalists, will feature theatre performances, workshops, poetry readings, film screenings and music performances.

“We hope to create awareness about the importance of protecting journalists and the media through arts,” said Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director Sonia Randhawa.

CIJ is organising the event, which is celebrated annually on May 3, with and Troubadours KL while Central Market and its Annexe are the venue hosts.

Awareness poster: (From left) Sonia, Tan, See Tho and Phoon Chi Ho having a look at posters promoting the event.

CIJ, which started in 2001, is a media organisation that aims to improve current Malaysian journalism practices and independence through advocacy, research and analysis, training and practical work.

Sonia added that often people feel isolated from media freedom issues and do not see how it affects their lives and, by using the arts, people can experience the connection.

Performers like Shanon Shah, Azmyl Yunor, Tan Sei Hon, Pak Pandir, Carburetor Dung, Modar and RS Murthi, with his new band Kamasutra, will provide the platform for the public to experience the connection.

Comeback Kings from Taylor’s College and a theatre team from the Kajang Cultural Group and the Komuniti Anak Seni Kampung Berembang will provide the opening acts during the two-day event.

Cartoonist Zunar will have a session at the Annexe to talk about critical cartoons while children can attend an art and DIY workshop organized by katagender.

Malaysiakini business development manager See Tho Chee Seong said the public is free to choose not only the media as their channel to convey their opinion but they can also transform their views and feelings through other mediums.

WPFD was declared by UNESCO in 1993 to promote press freedom around the globe.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Finalised programme

Saturday 5 May

The launch of People's Art Fest by CIJ will be held at noon with a book launch and an opening act by the ComeBack Kings

Art for kids by Tan See Ling
DIY and BBB Cultural Group (t-shirts)
Poetry Reading
Film Screening
DIY Activism by katagender
Wayang kadbod by Komuniti Anak Seni Kg. Berembang
Music Concert
-Peter Brown (7.30pm)
-Tan Sei Hon (8pm)
-Kamasutra (8.30pm)
-Installation Art and Performance commemorating U Win Tin (9pm)
-Shanon Shah (9.30pm)
-Carburetor Dung (10pm)

Sunday 6 May

Art for kids by Tan See Ling
Zunar's Exhition opens
DIY and BBB Cultural Group (t-shirts)
CIJ's Radio Production Workshop
7.30pm Concert
-Kajang Cultural Group
-Panda Head Curry (8pm)
-Wayang kadbod by Komuniti Seni Kg. Berembang (8.30pm)
-Pak Pandir (9pm)
-Leow Mei Chern (9.30pm)
-Azmyl Yunor (10pm)
-Modar (10.30pm)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shanon live at Central Market

Who can resist the charming, witty, funny yet superbly talented Shanon Shah, the winner of the Most Promising Artist Award at the 2003 Cameronian Arts Awards? Exactly, no one.

So, don't fight any resistance streaks there and just come along to Central Market on 5 May (Saturday) where we will be having a night of concert, with Shanon as one of the performers.

Shanon used to be a part of the Radiq team back in 2001 before he left for the "other side", but we are all so glad he's been able to do the things he love since then too, music and activism.

A good piece on Shanon back in 2005 in the Star can be found here. By the way, Shanon will be hosting this year's Cameronian Arts Awards. Cool eh?

Getting media coverage

Our press conference today was attended by journalists from, The Star and Sin Chew. We are hoping to get some coverage in theSun as well, so keep a look out.
"Ok, feed them well before they ask all the questions."

The p/c was conducted by Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Sonia Randhawa, Malaysiakini business development manager See Tho Chee Seong, TroubadoursKL artistic director Tan Sei Hon and Phoon Chi Ho of ComeBack Kings.

From left: Sei Hon, Sonia, Phoon, See Tho reported on the press conference this evening. The link is here.

Read CIJ volunteer Khor Hui Min's piece on the events that will be published in the Epoch Times here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mei Chern takes to the stage on 6 May

Mei Chern writes and sings mostly quiet and instrospective songs delivered with an earthy voice.

"I think most singer-songwriters or musicians who love what they do have experienced being in that magical place of utter contentment while performing; some call it being in the zone, while others call it being home...or maybe that's just me."
She first felt that while playing at a little student folk club in England, and later at NoBlackTie, Actor's Studio Bangsar, KLPac in Kuala Lumpur, Acoustic Routes in Cambridge, UK, and The Esplanade in Singapore. 'Feels Like Falling' was recorded in 2003, and went on to win the top download award on, 2005. 'Do you see me like you' was written for an award winning documentary called Alice Lives Here (Freedom Film Fest, KL, 2005), and 'My Time' was written for 'Twelve 11', a documentary on the collapse of the Highland Towers 13 years ago (Freedom Film Fest, 2006).
An experimental psychologist by training and a contributor for the Freespace column (The Sun), her songs can be heard on

Note: Mei Chern will be performing on Sunday, 6 May.

What's happening when?

We're still in the midst of finalising details of the programme, but we more or less know who's doing what and where:)

5 May (Saturday)
Main Stage Central Market
Opening at 12, with opening act by ComeBack Kings (young stand up comedy act)
7.30pm onwards: performance by Tan Sei Hon, Kamasutra, Shanon Shah, Carburetor Dung

Annexe@CM (Gallery)
11am: Art Workshop for kids
1pm: Poetry Reading
3pm: Film screening

6 May (Sunday)
Main Stage Central Market
6pm: Kajang Cultural Group (on workers' rights)
7.30pm onwards: performance by Pak Pandir, Azmyl Yunor, Mei Chern, Modar

Annexe@CM (Gallery)
11am: Art Workshop for kids
1pm: Critical Cartoons with Zunar
3pm: Wayang Kulit by Komuniti Anak Seni Kg. Berembang
4pm: D-I-Y Activism by katagender

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Azmyl: Voice to inform and reform

By Pathma Subramaniam

Some people avow music as the pacifier for the soul. Others take it as amusement for the ears. For local musician and performer Azmyl Yunor, music is a voice; a voice to express, to educate, to inform and to reform.

The panorama of the underground music in Malaysia is decidedly dedicated to self-expression and focused on addressing many impeding issues in the society.

Azmyl is amongst the scores of subversive and radical underground musicians in our country trying to make means to tackle issues that are often veiled from the community.

The singer and songwriter had independently produced several solo albums including his latest CD entitled Tenets EP, which threads together with an uncanny mix of acoustic and folk music accompanied by incensed lyrics written out of experience/exasperation.

“The songs on Tenets are generally about loneliness and belonging because being away from home made a difference in my life. It captures emotions I felt, like being displaced in a foreign land. The songs were inspired and written by the events in my life while studying in Australia,” explained Azmyl.

His work divulges a wee bit on his passion for folk and experimental music and his outlook towards self-expression, which set him apart from local alternative rock scene.

In addition to singing solo, our home-grown artiste had made revelations in a host of experimental and punk-rock genre underground music groups like the Maharaja Commission and Ben’s Bitches.

However, Azmyl is completely against the idea of going mainstream. “My lyrics are driven by the ‘Everyday Joe’, this (going mainstream) means abiding by too many rules and limits on my creative talent. Anonymity works well for me, as I can relate better to the people and being a topical songwriter, it is important to blend in”.

Evidently, Azmyl is nothing like any conventional performer, as he feels so deeply for having a bearing over turbulent matters that often leaves our society unperturbed whereas it should.

“The press plays a big role in ensuring that people become suitors to their own freedom but the status of our press in Malaysia is quite dismissal, resulting to the mere fact that it doesn’t represent the people as it should and more often than not, scrutinised to censorship and oppression,” explained Azmyl.

“Musicians are here to remind people that there is diversity. Every individual should make it their duty and responsibility to demand the right to explore that diversity and choose what’s right for them.

“We serve as an entity that is of benefit to the people. We address questions that concern the community with our songs. As musicians, we exist in the public sphere which encompasses every issue and in my opinion, have the responsibility of advocating those issues.”

Note: Azmyl will take to the main stage in CM on Sunday, 6 May at 8pm.

ComeBack Kings to kick off WPFD

By Adeline Chong

What can a pest like a cockroach do? For most of us, it exists to torment us as we tuck into a hearty meal of nasi lemak. But the ComeBackKings, an energetic bunch of comedians, have actually turned our fears of vile, flying cockroaches into raucous laughter in their skit ‘Dance 101’, which credits the origins of dance to a single cockroach. There was such encouraging response for this skit that they have been constantly asked to perform at various other events, and thus the journey of the ComeBackKings began.

Currently, ComeBackKings comprises of six talented members, Phoon Chi Ho, Theatre Supervisor of The Actors Studio Bangsar; Nigesh Armon, Mechanical Engineering student; Matthew Ho, recent graduate with a BA (Hons) in Communication; Mathew George, BA Communication and Media Management student; Jonathan Nathan, Business Management Developer; Yee Mun Joon, pursuing MSc Electronic Engineering and Ong Yi Khai who is attached with ntv7.

Over time, their performances have varied to include stand-up comedy and spoofing popular songs amongst others and they perform almost anywhere and everywhere they get a chance to – bars, lounges and restaurants to corporate functions, college events, theatre and concert events.

“Where people call, we go. It’s like ‘Scooby doo’s mystery machine' except we call our ride the Whimsical Wagon.”

The might of their comedic talent has also been proven when they won a talent competition held by the Institute Advertising Communication Training (IACT), which incidentally, also kick-started their fame.

When asked to demystify the magic that draws infectious laughter from crowds, the ComeBackKings simply remarked: “No magic. As budding performers in Malaysia, we struggle to make ends meet so we can’t afford a bomoh yet.”

It is apparent that their jokes extend beyond their performances. So how does a comedy bunch feel about serious issues being addressed during the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD)
“The arts is always pushing and questioning the boundaries of freedom as well as lack of. It is the one medium that can express one’s thoughts on freedom creatively and conceptually… (Also,) reporting accurately and expressing oneself freely is the ticket to taking our development to another level.”

As performers, they realise that freedom of expression can be very tricky.

“Being somewhat a ‘public figure’ we have to constantly be aware of our material to please the general audience and dominant party(ies).

“Is it possible for local comedians to not touch on religions, race and government? If it’s not possible, then we should ask ourselves why our nation of 50 years is still so sensitive when it comes to such discussions."

With that in mind, they hope that WPFD generates awareness in Malaysians and encourages them to express their thoughts on freedom through proper channels, because they find that many still do not realise “they are being abused with distorted and erroneous substances in the media.”

It is obvious that ComeBackKings are not run-of-the-mill comedians. This vivacious group who look up to veterans such as Harith Iskandar, Rashid Salled, Douglas Lim and Patrick Teoh, are armed not only with wit, but a deep regard for Malaysia’s struggle for freedom for expression. We can most certainly count on such new blood to continue thriving the Malaysian arts scene and champion freedom of expression.

Note: the ComeBackKings will do the opening act on Saturday, 5 May 2007 at noon at the outdoor stage in Central Market. Be sure to catch them!

Press Conference

Media Invite

We are pleased to invite you to attend a press conference on the World Press Freedom Day celebrations. Details of the press conference are:

Date: 25 April (Wednesday)

Time: Noon
Venue: Bau-bau Cafe, Annexe@Central Market, Kuala Lumpur.

Joining us at the press conference are the ComeBack Kings, Zunar and Tan Sei Hon of TroubadoursKL.

For more inquiries, call Gayathry at 016-3123478.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Correct me if I am right

This is an interesting project to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. I stumbled across them when googling for WPFD - enough of the Unesco official portal. I wanted to see if anyone else had started any project for WPFD. It is based in Berlin and has contributors and similar projects worldwide, mainly in producing posters to send all kinds of messages. Many are similar to the Reporters Sans Frontiers posters that focus on issues of media freedom, whereas Loesje uses all themes for their posters.

For WPFD, besides their poster drawing, they have ideas of what to do in your own group. I think they are worth exploring.

Look out for more updates soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

International theme for WPFD 2007 – Save journalists

Are they becoming an endangered species? Well, in some parts of the world – YES!

According to the New York-based
Committee to Protect Journalist, 580 journalists were killed in the line of duty between January 1992 and August 2006. Journalists are the especially at risk in conflict areas – in Iraq, 37 journalists were killed since the beginning of 2006 – but the CPJ and Reporters Sans Frontiers have also documented threats to journalists in countries with democratic institutions in place.

Read more from the
Unesco site.

The line-up

Great names have been forced...oops...invited to make an appearance at this year's fest.

Come and watch:

Other highlights:

  • Workshops on radio production, art
  • Book shopping with Gerakbudaya
  • Forum on talking cartoons with Zunar
  • D-I-Y t-shirts, stencils, silk screen
  • Live tv with malaysiakinitv

We are still talking to other GREAT people to participate...we'll keep you posted when we confirm their show.

Arts fest to mark World Press Freedom Day 2007

The Centre for Independent Journalism is working with and TroubadoursKL this year to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. So, what's that

Well, it all started in 1993 when Unesco got the United Nations General Assembly to proclaim May 3 as WPFD. Since then, countries, journalists and other interest groups have been organising celebrations to mark the day. This, year the world will
remember assassinated journalists.

Last year....
Last year, when the Centre for Independent Journalism thought about organising an event to mark WPFD, we realised that there were so few opportunities for independent bands to perform in KL. No thanks to certain quarters that think our indy bands are the source of the moral decadence in Malaysia, bands have a difficult time finding places to perform.

So, we decided to get them to perform for WPFD under the banner of `FREE VOICES', and what better place than Central Market. We're not bragging but I think 21 indy bands performing over the weekend in June last year was fantastic. Thanks to those who blogged about the performances –
Lainie, wastedtalent, Joe Kidd.

Broken Scar at Free Voices concert in 2006

Crowd at Central Market

This year...
We are expanding the celebrations a little. We are calling it the People's Arts Fest to feature all types of spoken and written words, illustrations and expressions to symbolise freedom of expression.

And we are back in Central Market and are lucky to be able to use their new and flashy stage at the main entrance.

So, come with your friends and family, take part in the workshops or enjoy the performances. While you're there, learn a thing or two about DIY activism, what's cool and what's not about freedom of expression and media freedom in Malaysia.