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Respecting Media Freedom: Letter to Abdul Hadi Awang and Anwar Ibrahim

The two leaders in Malaysia must guarantee media freedom instead of using us for their gains only to use existing laws and bogus arguments to blast the media for its freedom!

Media Freedom

I interviewed Hadi Awang sometime in 2004, he was then Menteri Besar of Terengganu, a state in Malaysia. At that time he wanted media freedom to push his agenda, to have his voice heard by the world.

I interviewed PM Anwar in 2014 while I was still pushing my blog WFTV Group (WorldFuture) and working for Malay Mail. Look how it's been ten years since I spoke to Anwar and 20 years since I last spoke to Hadi.

His party owns the political organ Harakahdaily. I was an occasional writer at the organ at the height of the reformasi days. The paper is not doing much in the daily fight for media freedom. It is used to push the political views of its leaders, mostly that of the President of the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) Pusat. It could do more to fight for media freedom now.

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Hadi's use of the media

Hadi Awang has a chance, a unique chance in Malaysia's political history now. He can turn things around for his image and his party's future if he fights for more media freedom instead of accusing the media of being a 'devil's advocate' for highlighting the always sensational news of some of his party supporter's misguided use of their 'nafsu' or nafs in committing criminal acts in their 'tahfiz' or religious schools.

Instead of bashing Anwar day and night over issues for which he defended Anwar in the past with such firmness, he should turn around and harass the teachers in the tahfiz or madrassah's as we know them. He should urge them not to sexually abuse the children will be a good start because it is a reality here and it is not random as Hadi is claiming.

As for PMX, he should buckle up and deliver on his promises. Reformasi is not dead as long as we, those who fought for reforms in Malaysia under the nose of Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, are still around and still kicking.

Anwar has said media freedom must have some limitations. This is so wrong of the Reformasi leader to say. I am not in any position to tell a PM what to do or what to say. But when a political figure whom I defended with my honour and pen says something that hurts the media, I will speak out.

The role of the media

There is the possibility that Malaysia needs clarity on the role of online media. But to wrap up all media in the same bucket is not okay. The authorities must split the media into two distinct groups.

When we applied at Latest Malaysia News for a media card, the Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia guys wrote back to say we were not a media outlet. They decided that without talking to us or visiting us or asking us to visit them. Lazy job done, we were dismissed. Thanks. But now, they are giving out media passes to all and sundry online.

As a media man for 43 years, I am asking Anwar to decide which is to be called 'media' or 'press' in the country. Should the blogs that are pro-opposition be called media? Decide on this and you will find solutions to the problem that you are facing with social media.

Nevertheless, enough said. I am not anti-Anwar but I am not pro-Hadi now.