The success of the first day of the CIJ programme, Roadmap to Media Freedom (Saturday, 3 May), had set expectations. The exhibition on related matters had created the right mood. The preceding discussion about Media Law Reform had raised some interesting and eye-opening issues. What had begun as an audience of about 20 persons had swelled to more than 60. Additional chairs had to be brought in and still some had to stand, or sit on the stairs. Everything was primed for a grand official launch of the BENAR campaign.
The video presentation that Birdseye had laboured many hours over (assisted, of course, by other members of the BENAR team) was received with unexpected enthusiasm. Even the presentation of the animated BENAR logo received applause. We were off to a good start.
The audience warmed up to the central message of the campaign – we understood that the journalists wanted to write the truth. It was their editors who were directing them to do otherwise. But giving excuses would not bring any change. They had to be prepared to show their concern about the direction journalism had taken. The BENAR campaign was their opportunity.
In his address, Haris spoke about the importance of the journalist community standing up for their rights. He promised that if they were ready to march for Press Freedom, the people would march with them. He also promised that he would personally set up a legal defence team to support any of them should such support be required.
The audience was told about Minggu BENAR (1st to 7th June, 2008) and people were invited to this blog to contribute their ideas on how we could prepare for the event. The target dates have been set. Some action targets have been set. Now it’s a matter of mapping out a strategy, working out the details and then executing the plan.
One of the first objectives on our action list is the Petition for the Malaysian Freedom of Information Act. As of now, the total number of signatures stands at a pathetic 402. We have a population of more than 20 million people. Can we not aim for a higher response rate?
Let us, for now, set a target of 10,000 signatures. If we can achieve that in the next week or so, then we can aim for a higher target. Go out there and tell people about this petition. Get them to sign. Then come back here and let us discuss what else we can do.
All of you are a part of this. Let us pool our efforts and make it happen. The ball is at your feet.