02 July, 2007

Press freedom: Talk is cheap, Pak Lah!

clipped from thestar.com.my
Pak Lah thanks media

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian media has been responsible and co-operative with the Government in reporting events that could threaten the country’s peace and unity, the Prime Minister said.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the media had been conscientious when reporting racially and religiously sensitive issues because it had an understanding with the Government on the greater need to protect the peace and stability the people enjoyed.

Abdullah, who said the complementary role was vital, added that the media had helped create a stable environment, boost patriotism and forge unity in the country especially during crises and problems.

blog it

“Sometimes, the media has anxiety in deciding what it should do but I believe they wonder how the Government, or specifically Pak Lah or the Internal Security Ministry, would react (to a news item).

“But some people also think ‘Pak Lah is tolerant so let’s try and see how tolerant he is’,” he said.

He also reminded the media that there were laws that governed them.

“Whether we use them depends on the situation. Even if we don’t use them, we leave it there. When we discipline our children we don’t throw away the cane even if we don’t use it but hang it up as a reminder to them,” Abdullah said.

Quote from Malaysiakini :

The prime minister has yet to take real steps towards freeing up the media, says his sternest critic Lim Kit Siang.

The government has yet to take concrete steps to freeing up the media despite a glowing tribute to journalists from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. (Read more here)

From Lim Kit Siang's blog :

The speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the Mass Media Conference 2007 last Friday is more significant for what he omitted than what he said.

Eight years ago, when he was first appointed Home Minister, some 600 journalists in Malaysia which in the subsequent year grew to over 1,000 journalists, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 presented a memorandum to him calling for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and other repressive laws fettering the development of a free and responsible press.

Abdullah had given a solemn undertaking to the Malaysian journalists that he would give their memorandum serious consideration.

Eight years have passed and Abdullah has still to respond directly to the 1999 memorandum on press freedom which has the support of over 1,000 journalists.

The Mass Media Conference 2007 on Friday is most disturbing for more reasons than one. In particular, the conference was organized by the Internal Security Ministry which seems to reflect an increasingly intrusive and invasive government role in the sphere of mass media.

In his eight years first as Home Minister and later Internal Security Minister with direct responsibility over the media, the arsenal of repressive instruments and laws fettering media freedom had been left intact, whether Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Internal Security Act or the Police Act.

At any time, these repressive instruments and laws could be resorted to and re-activated. There has been no move whatsoever towards new legislation to create an environment which fosters greater openness, accountability and transparency like the Freedom of Information Act and Whistleblowers Protection Act.

What is very disturbing is that there are more and more signs of government obstruction of the development of a free and responsible press, as for instance, in the latest government directive to expand the blackout of the Opposition from government television and radio stations to private stations.

Is Abdullah’s speech on mass media last Friday a final answer after eight years rejecting the memorandum by over 1,000 Malaysian journalists to him when he first became Home Minister calling for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and other repressive laws fettering the development of a free and responsible press?

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