SHAH ALAM: Complete freedom of expression sought by media activists and non-governmental organisations does not exist even in a liberal society.
“No matter how liberal a country is, there is no such thing as absolute freedom,” Projek MMO chief editor Fathi Aris Omar told the audience at the “Merdekakah Media Kita (Is Our Media Independent?)” dialogue.
He said everyone must realise that no one in the world can seek and ask for absolute freedom as those that ask for it do not understand the true meaning of freedom.
“There is a limit, there is the ethics of journalism and the fair play of the laws in the media system.
“Everyone does not have the right to say and write about false news, or incite hatred on others,” he said, explaining that the laws are there to protect freedom and not to suppress the people.
Fathi also asked what activists seek to achieve with the freedom that they are given.
“We need to know what is the minimum which we want to ensure that we have in that space that is given to us,” he said.
Fathi also said that it is a problem if the Opposition does not like the current situation of media freedom in the country but can demonstrate outside Sungai Buloh Prison for a political figure.
“Idealising a political figure more than idealising a principled struggle as claimed by the Opposition is not right,” he said.
He said this situation requires deep reflection by all parties.
“Freedom of the media is the responsibility of all, not just media activists or non-governmental organisations.
“(But) Malaysians have a ‘don’t care’ attitude, and this is not just happening in Malaysia but also in the West,” he said.
However, in the West, they have stakeholders such as their congress or their elected representatives to uphold the freedom of the people, he added.
Echoing Fathi, media activist and South-East Asian Press Alliance ex-executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said there is lack of solidarity among the media organisations.
“We are divided by political agendas based on ethnicity. Each media is a silo on its own,” she said.
Also at the dialogue was former New Straits Times group editor-in-chief Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, and Faculty of Communication, Visual Arts and Computing dean Prof Dr Azmuddin Ibrahim.The dialogue was moderated by television presenter Amin Idris.