By Charles Santiago
We are set to celebrate our Merdeka Day on Thursday. But on Tuesday, one of the headlines in a local newspaper succinctly showed that the threat to the loss of freedom continues to exist in the country.
The news report said the government is mulling a move to regulate news portals, where those with a high number of visitors would be required to register with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
Minister Salleh Said Keruak said all stakeholders would be engaged with before a decision is made, and assured the public that the move is not to restrict media freedom but to further develop the media industry.
Salleh should know that no one will buy his assurances. And the government must be told, yet again, that there is no freedom without the freedom of the press.
Contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist and thinker, Mehmet Murat ildan, said: “Unless you have a free press in your country, there is no need to buy newspapers and there is no need to watch the news because there is no need to listen to the lies. And you already have one real piece of information: You are being deceived by the people by whom you are governed. This is enough information for you.”
Over the last year, we have seen a rise in corruption, crime rate, living expenses and prices of essential goods. We have read about deaths due to bullying in schools, hate crimes against the LGBT community, deaths in custody, rising racial and religious tension in the country and persecution against politicians and human rights workers.
Independence Day is when we celebrate a democratic society with the rights to freedom of speech, expression, religion, life and civil liberties.
Looking back, I can only see a shrinking democratic space in the country where a small group of ruling elite continues to dictate how we should think, live and love.
It makes me feel as if we are temporarily back under the thumb of our colonial oppressors. But I also recall moments when we got together as Malaysians to fight oppression and injustice.
We should all therefore continue to celebrate the fight for our freedom.
Selamat Menyambut Hari Merdeka.
Charles Santiago is MP for Klang.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.