February 14, 2009


Freedom is one of the most precious possessions that we can have. For centuries, men have fought and died for freedom and this is still continuing today. As we all know, there are many in the world who have sacrificed comfort in life and freedom as a result of expressing what is in their hearts.

Freedom of speech refers to the right of the individual to express his views about matters of interest to him/her whilst freedom of the press would refer to the freedom of written word in printed form and that BOTH refer to the freedom of THOUGHT and are the outward expressions of our THOUGHTS.

George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a society where freedom of speech is denied and he argues there as to whether thought is possible without any external stimuli. (For more, please click here) The long and short of it is that distortion of facts, limiting areas of thought and expression, not only stagnates but destroys the human mind, creativity, potential and retards the development of relationship between man with himself and man with others!!!

Freedom of speech is not the freedom to hurt or harm others. Yet, some in our society who do the latter most insidiously, using others to hurt others be it in the political arena or in society. Personally, I strongly advocate that freedom should stem from a full, creative life which is satisfying for ourselves and can lead to the betterment and growth of society.

The ability to think and to speak are the two abilities that distinguish us from lower life forms. Thus, to me, the denial of these two basic freedoms is a DENIAL OF MAN’S HUMANITY!!! As long as conditions are repressive, thought processes cannot function normally.

A society that muzzles the press and the freedom of opinion may be equated with one that forbids THINKING and in doing so, will pave the way for it to stagnate. There is more to life than physical comfort and the possession of luxury items or non-essential comforts of life. Throughout the ages, man has fought and died for freedom. Like what I mentioned before, freedom of speech is fundamental to the functioning of democracy.

I opine that such types of freedom enable men to make life creative, progressive and meaningful. Stop. Think. Are we at that stage in Malaysia? Think hard.

We must remind ourselves that unfettered freedom is a chimera and can be a danger to the established order and the economic well-being of the country.

Freedom of the press (and blogosphere) must be used to bring to the fore the views of the public (and not that of the individual), whether they are critical of, or in support of the government; and it can even be a bulwark against government excesses.

Intelligent opinions and constructive criticisms should not be smothered, for such suppression can create a groundswell that is inimical to the government. As bloggers and even journalists, we must always remember that views that are inimical to the state, if given free scope, can spell disaster e.g. sowing the seeds of discord. History shows that in countries where restrictions were placed on such freedoms, the dictatorial regimes fell. This happened in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. where the rulers insulated themselves against political criticism and this led to their death or downfall.

Take a look at what Malaysiakini reported here:

Malaysia crashed into the bottom quarter of 173 countries in the worldwide press freedom ranking index released today by Paris-based watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders).

In the latest 2008 ranking, Malaysia fell eight spots to 132. Last year, it was placed 124th while in 2006, it was at 92.

Asia Sentinel reported here that :

Malaysia (132) has suddenly found itself in the embarrassing position of being sandwiched between Nigeria (131) and Chad (133) as the government’s crackdowns on journalists, bloggers and activists take their toll in the country’s international press freedom ranking.

I dream of a Malaysia where we have an enlightened government that allows freedom in communication, criticism, change and growth and that the government will always remember that by restricting such freedoms to avoid criticism to preserve a static condition, they are actually sowing the seeds for ultimate destruction!!!

The people in East Berlin courted arrest in order to preserve those forms of freedom discussed here. Deep thinkers who have freshness of thought and expression, incisive writing, fearlessness, a drive to seek justice etc. would find it absolutely suffocating to be limited by any restrictions. More important than bread or economic well-being is the freedom by which man wants to live.

To live without freedom is to live in fetters, and one’s personality should not be lost in an attempt by certain characters to force one to be subservient to a system or a person. Yet, freedom, when not misused, is a boon. With freedom, comes responsibility - responsibility in reporting, blogging, speaking and expressing our thoughts. So, the betterment of society depends on the right exercise of freedom which should not be taken away from us in any guise, rhetoric or policy.

It is my hope that the government, together with the rest of society will nourish our freedom (speech and press) perhaps to the same level as that of the British from whom we learned the principles of democracy.
For further reading on why freedom of expression is good for us, check out this excellent article at Aliran.

Copyright © masterwordsmith 2009.

February 13, 2009


Ideally, in any country that practises or supposedly practises democracy, there should be freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

I believe there should be democracy in the mass media whereby the press practise mature journalistic principles to produce reports that inform and empower the members of society thereby enhancing democratic values in the country and enabling the citizens to be informed and in the know of current events!!

The public are the customers of the mainstream media so the latter should be accountable to the public in creating the democratic expression of truth of the events as seen in the society. Is this the case in Malaysia?

Any news blackout in any democratic country indirectly shows the increased domination of that government over the mass media and the shrinking freedom of expression in that country. Some authorities may speak so much about reforming the mass media, establishing certain organizations and strengthening public service broadcasting. However if and when they do just the opposite, then the ones to suffer are the masses.

Theoretically, when the media dances to the tune of the authorities, media content would be SHARPLY INFLUENCED because the range of news and opinions would be limited, distorted and bias reporting would be more likely to occur. The MSM staff could be in a state of cognitive dissonance - torn between factual reporting and conforming to demands of the authorities. In time to come, would they be robbed not only of their ‘voice’ but also their ‘conscience’ when they cower to the demands and observe boundaries set by the authorities? Then they can all sail happily with the ruling government - in the boat populated by passengers with NO CONSCIENCE!

How can there be equal distribution of information? How can citizens grow up to be rational thinking people when we are ROBBED in broad daylight of the freedom to think and/or the freedom of expression? In the long-run, citizens of such a country would be ZOMBIES who cannot discern what is right and wrong, zombies who would have NO IDEA whatsoever of their rights and what they should do!!! They would, instead, be living in the DARK AGES as political discourses would be as extinct as dinosaurs and dodo birds!!!

So what is happening?


If democratic principles are being compromised, chances are that freedom of the press is being MURDERED!!

An iron hand over the MSM would likely lead to the tragic narrowing of the range of voices and opinions that are being expressed in the mass media to the extent that they are reduced to the status of puppets whose strings are being pulled by the authorities.

If and when such a scenario happens, the news and information being disseminated would be ridiculous to say the least because INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING is NOT ALLOWED OR EVEN ENCOURAGED!! The media in Malaysia can never again (not that it could do that much even in the past) be a public watchdog in our country! They have become the mouthpiece and ‘hailer’ or ‘loudspeaker’ of the authorities who determine what is to be reported and what should not be reported!

Any citizen of a democratic country must realize that the health of a country’s democratic political system depends on EFFICIENT, ACCURATE and COMPLETE transmission of news encompassing the different aspects of society including social, political, cultural news. The MSM, bloggers and alternative media must realize that they are the conduits of this information and that they MUST always act in the public interest!!!

A look at the disturbing trends around the world can tell anyone that the MSM have INCREASINGLY been UNABLE and UNINTERESTED in fulfilling this role because of the iron hand, muzzle and laws that have given them the pressure to conform to the wishes of the authorities concerned!!

So tell me- what has happened?

If democratic principles are undermined, citizens would be unable to participate intelligently let alone knowledgeably in public policy debates which are usually carried out in a hush-hush manner with little publicity.

So with the loss of press freedom, the loss of freedom of expression, there could arise in any democratic country, an uninformed citizenry who have to accept policy issues AS DEFINED by the political elite!!

Then there would exist an alarming lack of representation of truth, views and voices!!!

Dear blog readers, such a situation in many parts of the world today is the impetus factor which has led to the burgeoning growth of online news portals and blogs.

Bloggers are actually filling in the gap or the vacuum left by the MSM because of the muzzle over their mouth. With freedom, there comes the whole element of responsibility.

Therefore, I appeal to netizens in the netted community to exercise caution and restraint in our writing. I keep telling myself the same thing as well. We have to practise self-censorship and always ask others to read our posts to check if we have stepped out of line.

We CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT give the authorities concerned any reason to clamp down on freedom of expression in cyberspace but we have to write RESPONSIBLY and to watch our language.

God bless you and may God bless Malaysia!