Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) and the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) wish all Malaysians a free, happy and prosperous new year of rodent in the Chinese lunar calendar. Towards that end, we wish Malaysians more freedom of expression, freedom of information, and a more plural media environment.
Prosperity comes from hard work, entrepreneurship, creativity and prudent economic decisions. Central to human economic activities, both private and public, is the free flow of thoughts, knowledge and information.
Market, the state and the society malfunction and fail when ideas are censored, information is filtered, and initiatives stifled. Unfortunately, suppression, censorship and media concentration have dominated the past year. It is alarming that, denied informed choices, Malaysian minds are actually closing amidst the talks of going global.
WAMI and CIJ wish to share with all Malaysians three wishes for the new year.
Firstly, may the New Year bring us nearer to the abolition of the Internal Security Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act and University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), which have turned most Malaysians into prisoners of ignorance and fear. The ban on publications, in particular books on religion by leading thinkers, have taken place regularly. The arrest of five Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) leaders and the political witch hunt of individuals who have questioned through free and peaceful expression, government policies and incompetencies, are shameless tactics to scare ordinary citizens into political apathy.
Secondly, may the New Year usher in the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act at the federal level and Freedom of Information Enactments for the states. The RM4.6 billion scandal of the Port Klang Free Trade Zone as well as the revealing report of the Auditor-General are but two reminders how Malaysians’ hard-earned wealth are embezzled and wasted in secrecy. Malaysians must demand concrete commitment of all political parties to transparency and accountability in the coming elections.
Thirdly, may the New Year see diverse and plural media on the political agenda. The PPPA at the moment has created a monopoly in the print media by restricting the issuance of publication permits. However, there are no limits placed on the concentration of media ownership. Two changes in the past year are extremely alarming. First, the merger of Nanyang Press, Sin Chew and Ming Pao (Hong Kong) that was sealed with the emergence of the new expanded Ming Pao group, making the Chinese daily market even less competitive. Second, the majority control of the relatively independent newspaper the Sun by the BN-connected tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan just before the general elections signals that election reporting may be even more one-sided than in the previous elections.
We look forward to positive changes in society and wish all our friends a Happy Chinese New Year! Joint statement issued by WAMI and CIJ. Inquiries call 03-40230772.