Journos now have more rooms to move, notes Senator

Ling (standing, centre) poses with those present at the gathering.

By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, May 24: Pakatan Harapan (PH) coming into power in the 14th general election last year has been a “breath of fresh air” for press freedom, said Senator Alan Ling.

Addressing a Gawai-Raya gathering with the local media here last night, he said the press was muffled during the previous regime, where cartoonist Zunar and Sarawak Report, among others, were blacklisted.

“The general environment for journalists is much more relaxed. Self-censorship has declined dramatically and the print media is now offering a fuller and more balanced range of viewpoints, including support for both the new ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the old ruling coalition,” he said.

He added that Dr Mahathir had kept his promise to repeal the Orwellian provisions of the Anti-Fake News law adopted by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

“However, the authorities still have draconian legislations that could still be used to suppress media freedom, an arsenal that includes the 1948 Sedition Act and others,” he pointed out.

However, Ling, who is also DAP Sarawak secretary, said Law Minister Datuk VK Liew had announced that the Sedition Act 1948 was expected to be abolished this year.

He pointed out that Liew’s announcement was in line with PH’s election promise to be open to constructive criticisms, which is good for the government to improve its performances.

“We understand that freedom of expression is the foundation of a democratic society and there are existing laws in place to ensure it is not abused,” he said.

Ling also congratulated the media as Malaysia had jumped up 22 places in the latest World Press Freedom Index released on April 28 by Paris-based organisation Reporters without Borders.

“We are now ranked 123 out of 180 countries compared to 145 last year (2018),” he said, adding that the press freedom index also took into account factors such as whether the government had allowed media freedom to thrive.

The latest result showed that Malaysia is top among South-East Asian countries, where Indonesia is placed 124, Philippines (134), Thailand (136), Myanmar (138), Singapore (151), Brunei (152) and Vietnam (176).

“Reporters without Borders (RFS) had said in its report that press freedom is receiving a breath of fresh air in Malaysia after Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s ruling coalition suffered a surprising defeat in the May 2018 general elections,” he said.

Also present at the gathering were Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak vice-chairman Voon Shiak Ni, Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon, Miri Hospital director Jack Wong and Northern Sarawak Journalists Association (NSJA) president Andy Jong. — DayakDaily