Widening the boundaries of media freedom in Malaysia
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We Can Make A Difference
It is up to the Malaysian people to lobby for greater media freedom. Charter2000, a Malaysian citizenís media initiative, aims to be the launch-pad for that struggle.

by Anil Netto

media Many Malaysians are concerned about the state of media freedom in Malaysia but often feel helpless in a society ruled with an iron grip.

But are we really helpless? We, at Aliran, believe that something can be done. As concern mounted over the diminishing space for media freedom in Malaysia, Aliran last year discussed the idea of starting a citizenís media initiative to lobby for reforms. Fortunately, we had the fairly successful Citizensí Healthcare Initiative as a model to emulate.

The CHI has been credited with actually stopping - against the odds - the impending corporati-sation of general hospitals in its tracks in 1999. It showed that citizensí lobbying can work if everyone can agree on a set of basic principles embodied in a manifesto - in this case, relating to healthcare.

Confident that this experience could be applied to the media, Aliran decided to kick-start a citizensí media initiative. The process began when a small group of concerned individuals - Aliran members and non-members including mass communication students - met in the Aliran office in September 2000.

The group proposed that a media charter be prepared similar to the CHI manifesto. By 27 September, the first draft of Charter2000 was produced and then circulated to a number of journalists, academics and activists.

Meanwhile, a network of editors, journalists, academics, journalism and mass communication students, and other concerned individuals was set-up using an e-mail discussion group. In this Charter2000 e-mailing group, group members circulate articles relevant to media freedom and discuss concepts such as media freedom, objectivity, balanced reporting, media independence, and activist journalism.

A simple Charter2000 website was designed and the latest drafts of Charter2000 were posted there. Those who wish to join the e-mail discussion group are invited to visit this site for more information. We also received feedback from journalists working in major newspapers and from Charter2000 discussion group members. The revised drafts were again circulated in the e-mail group for comment.

Aliran tried its best to incorporate all the views received in the final version, which we hope to use as a launchpad to build further momentum in the struggle for media freedom in Malaysia. It will serve as a blueprint in our quest to claim what is after all our basic right to freedom of information and expression.