January 11. 2017
Malaysians–You have the right to know the truth
Are you willing to fight for it? Nothing is for free.
by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com
You claim that you are desperate for change in Malaysia, but how hard are you prepared to work for it? You know that there can be no true democracy without a free press, but how have you contributed to the struggle for media freedom?
Leaders who are insecure or who grow crazy with power will seize control of the media to make it toe the government line. You know this already because most of what you read in the conventional media are glowing articles about the state of the nation despite the price hikes and the rise in crime rates that worry you.
Most law-abiding citizens fear those who threaten the peace. You feel helpless because you are prosecuted for “threatening the peace” with the innocuous remarks you make on Facebook while others who threaten to bathe the streets in blood get a light rap on the knuckles.
So you withdraw further into your shell. The quest for change becomes somebody else’s problem, not yours anymore.
No wonder our national finances are in one big mess. We have this Siregar fella in charge of our Treasury while another mamak called Hamsa as head of our Blue Ocean civil service.
Meanwhile, you privately complain about the corruption scandals, the abuse of power, the waste of government resources, the tedious bureaucracy, the arrogant civil servants and the lack of accountability of MPs and senior civil servants.
You feel that it is the job of the opposition to effect change and unfairly call them weak when, in truth, they are severely handicapped by a lack of resources.
You compare Malaysian journalists with their foreign counterparts and complain that ours are meek because they refrain from asking tough questions, but when whistleblowers were hauled to court, journalists were harassed and jailed, editors threatened with sedition and publications blocked and threatened with closure, what did you do to help protect your right to know the truth?
Did you look the other way or did you harass your MP, write to the press, start an online petition or protest against the lack of press freedom? Or did you excuse yourself because you have a job to protect and many mouths to feed? Did you tell yourself, “After all, I’m not a journalist”?
You were probably saddened when publications were forced to shut down because companies feared to place advertisements with them and they were thereby deprived of revenue. It did not move you to donate money to keep them open. You somehow convinced yourself that it was not your job to fund others. You failed to see that if every one of several hundred thousand people like you were to donate a few ringgit, it would add up to a large amount of money.
Of course, you are desperate for change. Sadly, it is your inaction that fuels interference in your media.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.