Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Does Press Freedom Mean to You?

What does Press Freedom mean to you? We asked this question to local journalists and citizens, as well as international media advocates. Here's what they had to say...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Writers for Women's Rights Workshop

Have you ever disagreed with or felt angry about something a politician, or a reporter said or did, and wanted to raise your concerns but didn't know how? Have you ever felt like you have something to say about an issue, but didn't know who to tell? Come and see how you can use the media to voice your concerns, and bring about change. Learn how to write a letter to the editor, and make your voice heard. The AWAM's Writers for Women's Rights (WWR) will show you how to do this and how to use the media as a mode for activism. This will be a 1 1/2 hour session on Portrayal of Women in Media and How to Write Letters to the Editor.

The workshop is on 3 May at 4pm.

Trainer's profile:
Ng Tze Yeng runs Mosaic Street, a 4 person design and advertising outfit; and writes for Freespace, an opinion column in The Sun. She is on the AWAM's Working Collective and the co-ordinator for the Writers For Women’s Rights Programme. She loves feminism because it’s an ideology that helps her question ideologies, and challenge her own assumptions about herself.

Vizla joined the women's movement in Malaysia in 2005, when she began working at WAO. She joined AWAM's Writers for Women's Rights Programme (WWRP) in 2006, and is now in the Planning Team. She is also on WAO's Executive Committee. A full time student now, she is in training to become a Clinical Psychologist.

This event is open to the public - so, please do come if you have been itching to find out about media freedom issues and to get effective tips on writing letters to the editor - forward it on to friends who have been complaining about the news, and tell them here's a chance to do something! :)

Note: This workshop was wrongly stated in the banner as happening on Sunday, May 4. We wish to remind those interested to come on May 3 (Saturday).

May 4: Towards Media Law Reform-Speakers' Profile

Teo Nie Ching
Teo Nie Ching is the new member of Parliament for Serdang, and one of the eight-member team of MPs to table the Freedom of Information Act Bill in the parliament. Nie Ching is a lawyer and has been active in politics and human rights issue. Politics runs deep in her family. Her father was the secretary of the DAP Labis Campaign Committee, and her sister and brother-in-law are the Chair and the Deputy Chair of DAPSY in Labis respectively. In 2007 Nie Ching represented a UM student who was charged under the UUCA for political involvement and the Malacca pig farmers in the community's controversy with the state government. Nie Ching was also the commentator for AiFM and had a column in Nanyang Siang Pau.

Andrew Khoo Chin Hock
Andrew Khoo is the Bar Council's Co-Deputy Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, having joined the Bar in 2006. He has been a practicing lawyer for 13 years, specializing in commercial and corporate laws and has a law firm of his own.

HR Dipendra

HR Dipendra has been a lawyer for eight years. A passionate believer in freedom of expression, Dipendra was part of the Southeast Asia Media Defense Network initiated by the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA) and University of Oxford. He is currently the chairperson of the Kuala Lumpur Young Lawyers Committee. Dipendra has an LLB from the University of London and master in law from the London School of Economics.

Moderator: Wong Chin Huat
Wong Chin Huat is the chairperson of the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), a position he held since 2006. His involvement media freedom activism began in 2001, during the take over of Nanyang Siang Pau and the China Press by MCA. He was in the Committee Against Takeover (CAT) formed in response to the crisis. Prior to that he was the feature writer for Nanyang covering politics, social and cultural issues. Wong is a PhD candidate from the University of Essex and now lectures in journalism in Monash University, KL.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Setting the stage for WPFD

The 12th General Elections have presented some interesting opportunities and a platform to reiterate some of the issues related to freedom of expression that have been highlighted in the past.

The most notable was the extent to which the newspapers echoed the Barisan Nasional propoganda before and during the elections campaign, and possibly in ways that did more damage to the party. Readers have complained about the overly biased articles and reports, and a media monitoring initiative revealed the numbers to describe the bias.

The case of Makkal Osai, whose application for 2008 was rejected then given after an appeal raises questions about the minister's absolute discretion under the PPPA. Makkal Osai is happy, but for how long and for that matter, the other newspapers as well, especially Oriental Daily News which has yet to get its permit. See Chin Huat's article in theSun today on the PPPA.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar talked about relaxing the licensing provision under the PPPA, a recommendation made many times before from the media community and civil society groups. Examples, see CIJ, KAMI , WAMI, Charter 2000 and SUHAKAM.

How will the change in the political landscape with 82 Parliament seats and 5 states in the hands of the Pakatan Rakyat affect the media freedom agenda?

Will we have a Freedom of Information law in this term? Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has reiterated his commitment towards openness and accountability, but nothing much can happen as long as we have secrecy laws that protect abuses and wrongdoing. The opposition is proposing an FOI bill in Parliament, drafted by civil society, while the Selangor state government is pledging to introduce a state legislation within the year. How will BN respond?

One of the topics hardly mentioned in Malaysia is the need for community media, mainly in the form of community radio. Even the most developed nations have community media that add to the diverse and plural media environment, but importantly, to ensure that marginalised and dissenting views can reach the wider public through their own media. The internet is being exploited to get these through, as in the case of the that provides news roundups on issues of relevance to indigenous peoples. Examples of issues are the recent International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) for Indigenous Peoples Land Rights that got very little coverage, and the Ipoh Echo, available in print for the Ipoh folks and online.

These are some of the issues that set the stage for this year's WPFD and we look forward to an engaging crowd at the forums as well as the exhibition.

"Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Empowerment of People"

Some background to the theme, taken from the UNESCO's website for World Press Freedom Day.

Press Freedom contributes to Empowerment

In order for citizens to engage in public debate and to hold their governments and others accountable, key elements of living in a participatory democracy, citizens must have access to free, pluralistic, independent and professional media. The idea that communication and dialogue between different members of society will occur naturally cannot be taken for granted, and the media provide a means of access to information and igniting dialogue.

The role of community media

Even though many media outlets have made provisions for audience participation and have therein become more accessible to the people they serve, nowhere is accessibility and specificity of purpose so well defined as with community media. Currently radio is the most widespread form of community media in the developing world because it is cheap to produce and to access, can cover large areas, and overcomes illiteracy.

Access to information
Information can change the way we see the world around us, our place in it, and how to adjust our lives in order to maximize the benefits available through our local resources. Fact driven decision-making can significantly alter our political, social and economic perspectives. The right to access information can be interpreted within the legal frameworks that support Freedom of Information as it applies to information held by public bodies, or in a wider sense to encompass both access and circulation of information held by other actors, where it becomes intrinsically linked to Freedom of Expression.

Excerpts from UNESCO.

May 3: Towards Ethical Media- Speakers' Profile

Zainon Ahmad

ZAINON Ahmad is the political editor and consultant editor of theSun. Before joining theSun in 2002, he was the assistant group editor of the New Straits Times. Zainon also conducts training for jounalists and serves as media consultant in Malaysia and abroad. He was a visiting fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Boston, and holds a masters degree in history. His column, What They Say appears every alternate Tuesday in theSun.

Jacqueline Ann Surin

Jacqueline Ann Surin's 14 years experience in journalism first started in The Star newspaper. In 2003, she joined The Edge as a business and economic writer and rose to be the assistant news editor of its sister publication, theSun in 2006. She and two other colleagues started, a news portal dedicated to the reporting of the 12th General Election. Jacqueline is the winner of the Society of Publishers' Excellence in Opinion Writing Award in 2007.

Moderator: Gayathry Venkiteswaran

Gayathry Venkiteswaran was a journalist in The Sun for five years and was thrown into media activism as a result of a retrenchment exercise in 2002. She joined CIJ in 2002 as editor for the RadiqRadio project and took over as CIJ director in 2003 and as the Executive Director in 2007. She has also been a lecturer in two private colleges and worked with an international body as a communications manager. She has her first degree in journalism from Universiti Sains Malaysia and a Masters in International Relations from the Australian National University.

Friday, April 25, 2008

WPFD update

The annual World Press Freedom Day is drawing near on May 3. This year, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is organizing a two-day event inviting Malaysians to shape the road map to media freedom. If, as people say, all roads lead to Rome, what sort of direction would you, as Malaysians, want to see the media take? How do the stakeholders, i.e media practitioners, and political leaders see the future of media freedom in Malaysia post election?

All events to take place at the Annexe, Central Market, Kuala Lumpur.

This will be a two-day get together to discuss, give input, and engage with opinion-makers on reclaiming media freedom. There will be public talks, workshop, exhibition, wall-painting, survey and activities to spell out the path(s) towards a future of media freedom. Here is the highlights of the main events:

3 May
Public talk I- Towards Ethical Media

The public rejection of the mainstream media (MSM), the shift towards alternative media during the elections, and the recent boycottof the MSM organized by the People's Parliament can be read as an angry response over perceived unethical and unprofessional media coverage. Most common, the complaint was around biasness and media blackout of the opposition. With the opposition currently receiving relatively more and prominent coverage in MSM due to their big time electoral victory, does it mean that the public has no more reason to be critical of the MSM?

The discussion would take advantage of the spark already ignited to heighten the public awareness on what constitutes ethical media practices, so that participants can move beyond the awareness of biasness and media blackout and are capable of assessing both the MSM and alternative media from a broad ethical perspective. Rather than boycotting the MSM, the discussion encourages an active and discerning media user who embraces both types of media and yet critical of them.

Time: 12:30- 2:00pm

Speakers: Zainon Ahmad, Jacquelin Ann Surin, Wan Hamidi Hamid
Moderator: Gayathry Venkiteswaran

4 May
Public talk II- Towards Media and Information Law Reform

The electoral results opened many windows of opportunity for legislative reform in the area of media and access to information. While many may think that changes at best can only happen in the opposition controlled states, the discussion attempts to impart information on various mechanisms available in introducing and pushing for nationwide legislative reform, specifically on free media and access to information. Participants will be also getting an idea of CIJ's commitment to media and information law reform and lobbying work.

Time: 12:30-2:00pm

Speakers: YB Teo Nie Ching, Andrew Khoo Chin Hock, HR Dipendra
Moderator: Wong Chin Huat

Don't miss out on the weekend space for you to chart the course for the media you want!