COMMENT More than just criticism and opinions, members of the public should also galvanise to accord the media their support and protection, to ensure that the press that serves them remains free, fair and independent.
This, as the argument for media freedom, is a circular one, for like Ouroborus the ancient snake devouring its tail, it begins and ends with itself.
At its very core, press freedom must stem from the desire for self expression, for having a voice, the desire to think and to voice opinions.
In this sense it is like Ouroborus’ head, which grew out of the body.
But all this is moot and useless without the ability to consider and think.
Lest one be like what Shakespeare warned of in his works, the parable of the village idiot who made much noise, yet signified nothing.
And in this, media freedom is no longer the product of the desire for free speech but also its wellspring. It is the head that bites down on the tail, creating the endless circle.
This is so that the practice of free speech must be fed by a healthy environment of thought, social interests and discussion.
In this, a free, fair and independent media is the space where ideas are shared and different interests contend for voice, celebrate discussion and compete for mind share.
And that, in essence, is why the media must be free from the shackles and pinions of control. For it is the mold from which society’s thoughts, mind and opinions should be naturally shaped.
Must not be under undue influence
These must be created in society’s image, not under undue influence and forcefully bent out of shape.
Hence, a free and fair media will only benefit society, for it breeds choices and will ultimately represent the interests of society in all of its diversity.
In this context, society is the parent and the media its child. They must be the parental voice that criticise the media, for it is their right and it is their privilege.
The people must always engage with the media, they must write in with ideas, opinions and advice, so that the media can truly represent the will, the voice and the aspirations of the rakyat.
But the public’s contribution to media and its freedom cannot only be from dominant groups with vested interests, like activists, political parties and NGOs.
It’s true that free media must stem from the people's burning desire for freedom. The media is the public journal, kept by journalists, but it should be of, for and by the people.
For it is the very instrument of democracy that forge the destiny of nations.
And in the same way, the media is also the people's children, that they must nurture. For, in the end, like their offspring, it is the encapsulation of all that they are and what they want to be.
More than just advice, opinions and criticism, the people must also accord the media their support and protection.
Like their children they must help safeguard the media from interference so that the media continues to be non-partisan, fair and free in its service to the public.
And in doing so the media must encompass society in its entirety, it must be pluralist in this regard.
Voices must be heard, not bludgeoned
There is no minority and no majority, only society, whose interests should be given voice in its entirety.
Voices that should be heard without being bludgeoned into shaped or scared into silence.
This, is because, unless the people are free to think and express their opinions, then they are essentially constrained and cannot develop.
Only when society is allowed to be creative, critical and free that the freedom of thought will exist, hence creating true freedom of expression which will give rise to true media freedom.
And, as we once again celebrate World Press Freedom Day this year, GERAMM would like to echo Unesco’s theme for this occasion: Let journalism thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality & media safety in the digital age.
In the Malaysian context, Geramm calls on everyone in Malaysia to respect the rights of the society and journalists to speak and think freely.
We hope that as we celebrate this occasion today with the citizens of the world, so will we one day celebrate the day that the shackles and restrictions placed upon the ocal media are removed, enlivening society’s thought space and rekindling freedoms of speech and the press.
This is crucial as the freedom of the press is essential, not only to advance democracy and politics, but also for the development of the mind, arts, economy and civilisation.
Geramm or Gerakan Media Marah is a loose coalition of independent media practitioners, journalists and activists.