Monday, January 6, 2014

PKR leaders, supporters snap red pencils in show of support

by Joanna Yap Posted on January 5, 2014, Sunday

Baru (seated second left) and state PKR leaders and supporters snapping red pencils in half.
KUCHING: PKR Sarawak leaders and supporters collectively snapped red pencils in half yesterday in a gesture of support for the Red Pencil protest organised by Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) against the curbing of press freedom by the government.

State PKR liaison chief Baru Bian said the recent suspension of The Heat without a valid reason was the latest act of suppression in a continuing onslaught against the freedom of the press by the authorities.

“The freedom of our press has been severely eroded during the last few decades under the Barisan Nasional (BN) authoritarian regime and continues to be curtailed by the current BN government.

“Our media agencies and personnel are subject to pressure and coercion, censorship, intimidation and prosecution. It is time all Malaysians stand up for this most crucial guarantor of democracy in its hour of need.”

Baru said PKR Sarawak supported Geramm’s eight demands to the government and related parties to uphold press freedom in Malaysia.

He noted that Malaysia is placed 145th out of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index, the country’s worst showing in the benchmark since 2002, and a steep drop of 23 rungs since 2011.

“Even Cambodia has a better ranking than us in 143rd place,” said Baru, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman.

He also criticised the lack of editorial freedom amongst newspapers, whose news content is influenced by the owner or publisher, and questioned the quality and veracity of reporting by mainstream newspapers, the majority of which are also linked to BN parties.

“Often, the balanced writings of their journalists are subject to rigorous editing and in-house censorship.

“Thankfully, the reading public is now more discerning than ever, and the owners of these papers would do well to take note of the sharp decline in the circulation of their newspapers of between 10-40 per cent following the 13th general election,” said Baru, citing a report from The Edge on Oct 4 last year, which reported there was a 60 per cent increase in online traffic of online political news sites and 20 per cent increase of all news websites from March to May 2013.

According to a statement released by PKR, Geramm is demanding the government withdraw the suspension of The Heat weekly and let it operate as normal; thoroughly investigate the violence inflicted by police against media practitioners during the Bersih 3.0 rally in 2012; abolish the publication permit that is made mandatory under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984; allow all media practitioners to cover government events and access to public buildings for news-gathering purposes; and apologise to media practitioners for any breach of media freedom and rights.

To political parties, Geramm is demanding they give full access to all media practitioners without discrimination to public activities and press conferences.

Finally, Geramm is demanding that media organisations and journalists practise good journalistic ethics and give balanced and fair reporting to all, and uphold the spirit of press freedom and human rights.

Baru said without the guarantees that an independent press requires, Malaysia would never be a true democracy, and the prime minister’s ‘best democracy in the world’ aspiration would remain nothing but a fantasy.

The red pencils snapped in half yesterday were collected to be sent to the Home Ministry.

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