One of the visitors to this blog asked what business it was of people like Haris Ibrahim and SV Singam to be telling reporters what to do. We believe that is a fair question and expect that many others could have wondered the same thing.
Different people in different positions would have different views about what is the role of the media. Let us take a quick look.
- The owner of a media company would see it as a profit center. He would want the media company to do whatever it is able to do to maximise profits.
- The employee would see it as his income source. His primary concern would be that the company remains able to employ him and pay his salary.
- A government would see it as a tool of nation-building. The expectation would be that the media company should do anything and everything that helps the government pursue its agenda.
- The opposition would also want the media to be the tool of nation-building… exposing the weaknesses in the system that need correcting.
- An activist would want the media to give him a platform from which he can shout out his message.
- The oppressed and the underprivileged would want the media to speak up for their cause.
- The religious activists would want the media to give them space for proselytising while religious bigots would want the media to block out everybody but themselves.
In the midst of all that, we rakyat who are none of the above can ask, what is our expectation? What is our stake? The fact of the matter is that ordinary people do have a stake in anything that will affect their livelihood and their future. That is a fundamental premise of a democratic society. Anything that is in the public interest, the public are entitled to have an interest in.
So where does that place the media? It has been said that freeing the media is the final stage of decolonisation. The oppressive laws that mute the media today are carry-overs from the time of British colonisation of the Malay States. While we have freed ourselves from the shackles of a colonial regime, we are still not free from the mental colonization that has only become worse since Merdeka.
We, as a people, have the right to seek a media free to report the truth without fear or favour. We, as a people have the responsibility to tell the media where they are lacking and need improvement. More than that, we as citizens of a free nation, owe it to our media people to work with them and help bring about the changes they need that will result in a free media.
Benar is not an organisation. Benar is an idea, a cause. Benar is the opportunity for ordinary people who are neither journalists nor bloggers to stake their claim on determining the direction that media freedom will take. This Benar blog belongs to the people. You can determine how to use it to promote the cause of media freedom. Feel free to contribute ideas and write relevant articles. Anyone who wants to have a bigger participative role than just commenting in a blog, simply write in to us and we will include you in our e-group.
So back to the original question, did Benar have the right to organise a Walk for Media Freedom? We feel that the Walk is a necessary first step in the process of taking back the liberties that the media have been deprived of. If the media community could have organised it themselves, the effect would have been tremendous. However, as a result of this being a civil society initiative, something unprecedented is taking place.
For the first time, people from the traditional media, the blogger community, ordinary citizens and a representative of the government are getting together for a common cause – Media Freedom. The path will be long and hard, with many dangers and challenges. But with so many parties ready to acknowledge the need for Media Freedom, it’s only a matter of working together and developing a reasonable plan that will address the concerns of all the stakeholders.
We are taking an important first step. Let us keep walking forward. Pretty soon, even the detractors may be seen walking with us.