Based on the unfortunate experience of the Makkal Osai, I can only make a guess that if any newspaper wants to be safe, and to be able to publish uninterruptedly, in this country then it must not make any attempt for fair coverage of the news as far as the government-opposition divide is concerned.
I do not believe the minister’s assertion that fanning racial sentiment and hatred is a criterion for which action against Makkal Osai was taken, because in no way can the journalistic slant of that small-circulation newspaper be defined as being more bigoted and more racist than that of the Umno-controlled
For several weeks now, specifically since the Umno-led BN government suffered losses at the 12th General Elections, there is no other way that the journalistic slant of the
Why is that, one would ask, the
Should any international and foreign press freedom NGO again comes out with yet another accusation that
Indeed, I would be the last to assert that
But press control – and indeed effective press control at that – can be implemented by other means, such as through corporate control of newspaper publishing companies, through political participation in the appointment (and sacking) of editors, and, especially, through the “withholding of annually renewable publishing permits.”
And all these things indeed do take place in
With such delimiting legal parameters existing around the world of free press in this country, over the years a culture of “press unfreedom” that even some of our best journalists are unaware of have slowly but surely developed. The situation is quite akin to the situation of our students and professors being unaware of the existence of a true culture of academic and intellectual freedom different from what we have in our unfree universities.
It is this true press freedom that the Makkal Osai people have tried to practice – and had to pay with the price of their very own journalistic existence. They should have known better, and should have emulated the
That unfree press culture must have permeated our journalistic world quite deeply that even our best star journalists had learned to thrive in it and live with it rather blissfully, quite unaware of the fact that they are being deprived of the very basic element of their own profession that existed in a true world of press freedom.
Some of our “star” journalists, such as A. Samad Ismail, A
Said Zahari is the only journalist I know that had defied the culture, and had to pay with the best years of his life spent in incarceration.
But even these subservient journalists do not appear to really understand specifically the arbitrarily and administratively defined limits of the culture of press unfreedom. Many of them have unwittingly crossed forbidden lines and had to pay dearly with their careers being cut short.
Neither do these journalists appear to understand, let alone be committed to, the true nature of the “real” culture of press freedom. As such, whenever there are those among them who are elevated to more powerful positions – as in the case of Zainuddin Maidin who was made the Information Minister – they do not use their exalted positions to promote a true culture of press freedom, but in fact to suppress it even further.
If journalists such as Zainuddin Maidin could not be expected to have a fine understanding of the notion of “press freedom”, then what hope do we have to see the culture of press freedom to thrive under the watchful and suppressive administrative eyes of people such as Hamid Albar and Ahmad Shahbery Cheek?
As such, I would consider the naïve appeal of some well meaning writers to call on the government to give the Massal Okai “a second chance” as futile.
Within the existing culture of unfree press, the best hope for Makkal Osai is to acquire the services of some politically correct sponsors who would act as feelers to approach the government, with the promise that they would change their ways, to be in line with the existing culture and to behave exactly as
UPDATE: Soon after the above was posted, I was rather pleasantly surprised by Hamid Albar’s policy statements and announcment of some sweeping changes on some existing policies on media freedom (See Malaysiakini: April 20.) I am, however, withholding my reaction for the moment – until I see more definitive results from the Minister’s inititives. I would initially applaud his announcements as a step in the right direction.