Media statement by Lim Guan Eng in DAP Penang Headquarters in Penang on Thursday, 21st October 2010:
Prime Minister's assurances of press freedom remains futile unless backed by action with the enactment of a Freedom Of Information Act (FOI) and abolition of repressive laws like the Sedition Act, Printing Presses & Publications Act (PPPA) and Internal Security Act (ISA)
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's assurances of support for press freedom as crucial to national development sound hollow with the latest release of 2010 World Press Freedom Index where Malaysia has plunged 10 notches to 141 out of 178 countries. Najib had said at a forum yesterday that banning newspapers would be counter-productive and a futile exercise as without free media, the world cannot be as integrated as it is today.
How can there be public confidence of the Malaysian government's to free media when even cartoons are banned with the recent detention and banning of cartoonist Zunar and his book? What is unusual about this year's World Press Freedom Index is that Singapore (136) performed better than Malaysia for the first time since Paris-based press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) began releasing its ranking in 2002.
The Prime Minister's assurances of respecting press freedom remains futile unless backed by action with the enactment of a FOI and abolition of repressive laws like the Sedition Act, PPPA and ISA. The BN's government refusal to fulfill its previous promises to even review these repressive laws coupled with its ownership and control over the country's print and broadcasting media has made the goal of an informed public a distant dream.
After 53 years of independence, the time has come for Malaysia to join the global citizenry of civil society by adopting and implementing fully human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There should be no concerns that Malaysians are unable to handle press freedom.
A very good example of the maturity of Malaysians is the establishment of the Speakers' Square in Penang 6 months ago permitting full freedom of expression. Despite earlier concerns that sensitive issues of race and religion would create public discord, the public had exercised this freedom of expression responsibly by ignoring those with extremist views and supporting those who use logic over emotion.
*Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary General & MP for Bagan