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World Press Freedom Day message by Lim Guan Eng in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 3rd May 2008: 

The government must stop harassing bloggers such as Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) and the police should observe the World Press Freedom Day by respecting the freedom and the rights to free speech  

Today, May 3 2008, is the World Press Freedom Day and DAPís struggle to establish a free media environment in Malaysia will continue. Our resolve is firmly strengthened with the peopleís voice when Malaysians voted for change on March 8 2008.

Despite the strong call for reform, the federal government is slow to adapt to changes. The Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) which requires publishers and printers to apply for fresh permit annually has prevented free and independent journalism. This has led to even not only senior editors but also reporters resorting to self censorship.

Furthermore, repressive and preventive laws such as the Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and Internal Security Act have contributed to the stifling of media freedom in this country, preventing journalists from reporting and writing independently.

In Malaysia, the situation has gone from bad to worse over the years. Last yearís Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index 2007 ranked Malaysia at 124, dropped from 92 in 2006. It was the worst ever ranking for country since 2002. Even under the tight control of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia was ranked 110th and 104th, in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

DAP has been voicing our concern and our ideas for freer Malaysia which also include freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Our ideas have been incorporated in many petitions and demands including Charter2000: A Malaysian Citizensí Media Initiative which, among other things, demanded for:

* The enactment of a Freedom of Information Act, the provisions of which must be based on the reflections and recommendations of the widest possible spectrum of concerned groups and individuals as possible;

* The repeal of the PPPA, the ISA, the OSA, the Sedition Act, the University and University Colleges Act, and repressive clauses in all other legislation. In particular, the government must cease to require publishers and printing firms to obtain licences to publish;

* The cessation of abuse and manipulation of publicly owned media such as RTM and Bernama by the federal government;

* The reform of public and private media to ensure greater professionalism and high ethical standards while promoting justice, freedom and solidarity.

DAP regrets that Utusan Malaysia continues its arrogance by refusing to admit mistakes, even though it is caught red-handed for false reporting. I have been a victim of such unprofessional act and lies are the reasons why Utusan Malaysia has lost credibility with its readers do not trust what is published.

Our commitment to press and media freedom is genuine. A group of our Members of Parliament has set up a Caucus on Freedom of Expression and Information which will get more people to support the cause.

Focusing on the issue of media law reform, the freedom of information and equal access to the media for all, we will work with all interested parties to come up with a draft bill for the Freedom of Information Act. This will be done to replace the repressive Official Secrets Act.

DAP urges the federal government to continue the live telecast of question hour at the Parliament not just for 30 minutes, but the full 90 minutes. There is nothing to be afraid to show democracy in its truthful nature that despite all the negativity, democracy is still the best form of government that allows the rakyat to decide the future of their state. Democracy and press freedom can ensure good governance, especially the Penangís CAT government of competency, accountability and transparency.

Only press freedom and the abolition of anti-human rights legislation can allow democracy to flourish and give birth to a more open and transparent society.

* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General & MP for Bagan & ADUN for Air Puteh


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