Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Malaysiakini.com: 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.

1 comment:

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