Coming together for Media Freedom
The walk for media freedom on this Sunday (June 1) is initiated as an act of solidarity involving journalists, bloggers, writers, photographers and fellow citizens.
Malaysia badly needs reforms to the existing draconian media laws to lift the threat on every journalist, every blogger and every citizen who seeks to be informed and expresses his/her views on matters of public interest. Such calls have been made for years by journalists, bloggers and civil society groups. We believe the voice would be louder if we make the call together.
This is why CIJ, WAMI, Benar and All-Blogs organized the walk from Dataran Merdeka to National Press Club (NPC), to be followed by a dialogue hosted by NPC involving the de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim, the media community including NUJ and the members of the public.
A 3-point memorandum demanding media law reform launched on May 3 by CIJ and WAMI will be read to kick start greater effort in collecting signatures, to be presented to national leaders on August 31 and to state leaders on September 16.
The walk is on
The walk was never intended to be a public rally. To avoid confronting security laws, participants are invited to walk alone or in pair from the flagpost at Merdeka Square to NPC within a period from 9.30 to 10.15 am.
We believe it is our fundamental freedom to take a morning walk. Should anyone need a reminder, other than Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly, Article 9 also guarantee explicitly that “ … every citizen has the right to move freely throughout the Federation …”. We cannot see how citizens walking though the Square symbolizing the nation’s independence shall threaten the nation’s security.
We informed the police of our intention to have a morning walk but were unfortunately told that we would need to apply for a permit which would not be granted anyway. The police however did concede that participants of the dialogue may need to walk from somewhere else.
We have chosen neither to apply for police permit nor to call off the walk. We believe it is every citizen’s right to walk through the capital city on a Sunday morning. Taking into account the concerns of individual participants, we have recommended only one change: participants may walk for any distance from any direction.
Take public transport or park your car elsewhere and to walk towards the NPC during the designated time. You may come from any direction. Naturally, if you alight from LRT at Central Market or if you park at Merdeka Square, you will have to walk through the Merdeka Square to NPC.
The meaning of your every step
We call upon the participants of the walk bring a national flag or a copy of Federal Constitution, and to wear a yellow ribbon to symbolize your support for media freedom. If you are a journalist, put on your press card. Whenever you feel a need to assert your constitutional freedom, wave your flag, sing Negaraku, cite Article 9 or 10 of the Federal Constitution, or recite Rukunegara especially the third principle: “Keluhuran Perlembagaan”.
Let it be clear to the authority and the wider public this is not just any walk. It is a walk to reflect on the state of media freedom in Malaysia after 50 years of independence and our individual roles to advance that. Let us reflect on what has gone wrong in this country, that the citizens are not allowed to walk freely through their Merdeka Square. Let us ask in our every step: what is national independence without media freedom?
We recognize that this may not be a decision satisfactory to every freedom-loving Malaysian, but we believe it may be the change necessary to bring on board as many individuals and groups as possible. We plead for your support to join the walk even though you may not agree with the arrangement.
Let us come together to claim our media freedom, and by extension, a full democracy which is over due for 51 years. A walk of 50 people may be stopped or invisible. A walk of 500 will not be. Let us all be part of a proud number for a new beginning.