As there is no evidence that the BN government is interested in guaranteeing us our basic rights, the Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan state governments should take the lead in showing us what sort of changes can and should be made, says Ong Jing Cheng.
After 13 months of Prime Minister Najib Razak in office with his slogan of 1Malaysia, the freedom of the Malaysian press has hardly improved; indeed, many would argue it has deteriorated. We could cite the recent allegation of inteference (in the media) from Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Prime Minister, as well as the continuing heavy powers vested in the Home Minister.
Over the past 53 years, the Barisan Nasional (BN) has relied on controlling the free access to and circulation of information through such acts as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Sedition Act, all of which have been used to limit people’s freedom of expression and right to information.
In our view, we need a new and positive approach to freedom of expression, and new guarantees of our rights to freedom of both expression and information. We need a 1Press Freedom Malaysia to open up our democratic space and break down the walls of secrecy and silence, which only help protect the corrupt and those with vested interest.
As there is no evidence that the BN government is at all interested in guaranteeing us our basic rights, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Penang Branch urges the Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan state governments to take the lead in showing what sort of changes can and should be made. We are excited over the step taken by the Selangor state government to draft and consider a Right to Information Bill, which hopefully will be passed at the next Selangor State Assembly sitting. We are also excited that the Penang State Government is about to launch a Speakers’ Square, to allow people to speak freely. We urge all PR parties and other states to adopt the Right to Information Bill, and to widen their commitment to the ideals of good governance, by extending transparency, accountability, participation and inclusiveness in government initiatives and actions.
Interference in press freedom is an assault on the rights of all Malaysians. At the same time, it is sad that so many people involved in our mainstream media, especially at the top, seem satisfied at being told what to write and what to cover. Penang Suaram urges every Malaysian to stand up for press freedom, to support freedom of information and to understand that, without this basic right, our society will continue to suffer from consistent abuse of power and corruption. It is high time this is stopped.
Ong Jing Cheng is coordinator of Penang Suaram.