Lawyers must have evolved from eels. They can be both aggressive and slippery. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Zaid Ibrahim was largely slippery this morning as he dealt with a barrage of questions and demands from both the media folks and the bloggers.
The police missed their dose of laxative and as such were their usual constipated selves when a group of media folks and bloggers wanted to march (walk, rather) to the National Press Club in Jalan Tangsi. They were restricted to single and double file for fear of disrupting traffic. This was early Sunday morning when KL-ites are still in bed. Go figure.
Well-attended event, this. Saw lots and lots of familiar faces. Put some of them up here. Run your cursor over the pictures for captions.
This event was The Walk for and Talk on Media Freedom is organised by media activists, including Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami), National Alliance of Bloggers, and BENAR. It is hosted by the National Press Club (NPC) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The usual lot of bloggers were there. Ungker Zorro, Rocky, Ewoon, Shanghaifish, Jalan Sudin, Little Taffer, Wattahack, Harris Ibrahim and the People’s Parliament regulars Helen Ang and Paul Warren, Sinister Shar, KL Confidential‘s Yati and Vijay, the experienced Meesh, Tony Yew who played MC.
But what was even more heartening to see were the mainsteam media folks. Spied at the sardine-packed NPC was Norilla Daud (UtusanMalaysia and NUJ chair since forever) and her sec, Hong Boon How.
Seen AND heard was Shaila Koshy and group chief editor Wong Chun Wai from The Star. Lurking somewhere was journos M.Veera Pandiyan, A. Asohan, journalist/playwright Kee Thuan Chye, Shahanaz Sher Habib, Hariati Azizan all from The Star, A. Gayathry from CIJ, Malay Mail’s Baradan Kuppusamy, Claudia Theophilus from Aljazeera, columnist KJ John and Malaysiakini folks, among others.
Some of these folks have been part of the push for a freer Malaysian media way before “blog” was a word. Some weren’t there today. But for once, there was a show of cohesion today, even if there was no MSM head honcho there from NST, The Sun, Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia. In fact, their absence is rather conspicuous.
Chun Wai asked if to start with, the govt would be open to the idea of issuing KDN (publication) license on a one-off basis as opposed to the annual renewal practiced presently. Zaid passed the buck to Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and said he would support whatever his cabinet colleague’s take on the matter. Lame!
Zaid plays politician and lawyer quite well. He responds to calls for freer media by saying, “Are you saying there is to be no control on the media whatsoever? Who is going to regulate it?”
He knows the answer. There are enough laws in place and even a media watchdog comprising industry seniors could be formed to regulate the media. Misinformation can be helped. Disinformation must be stopped.
Shaping public opinion is a huge responsibility. Maybe the govt doesn’t trust the media to self-regulate. But what it had done for decades now, is worse. It had used the media that was to help the public make informed choices, as a disinformation tool.
So, who really needs control? The media? Or an irresponsible govt whose many gaffes are crawling out of the can everyday, these days?
You tell me.
So, was today a success? Naah, it is a gesture of some kind, it was a show of another kind, but whether something more will come out of it depends on whether this kinda coming together of the mainstream media, advocacy groups, civil society groups and bloggers can be sustained.
The stakes ultimately are the repealing of draconian laws. Does Zaid have the guts to throw himself behind this cause? Is today’s meet worth anything?
Let’s wait and see.