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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The RSF Downward Spiral 3 - The Clown Wars

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Related posts:
The RSF Downward Spiral
The RSF Downward Spiral 2 - Revenge of the Silent Mainstream

Today, Walski wants to talk about clowns. Not the circus kind, though. And the face paint you usually associate with clowns are cleverly concealed with these clowns - behind real human skin. Confused? It'll become clear in due course... and if it doesn't, well - you're just dense.

Rumor has it that one of the unwritten skills required of anyone wanting to become a successful politician, particularly those associated with the incumbent ruling party, is that you need to be good at assigning blame. And it doesn't matter if the assignment makes sense or not. The points you score? Well, proportional to how fast you assign blame - the faster you do it, the more brownie points you earn.

Image hosting by PhotobucketTake, for example, this clown. He's relatively well placed in the political echelon, for a clown - a minister, in fact. myAsylum's CRAP (Cybernetic Remote Autonomous Pararoaches) managed to catch this clown in true form - he looks very different in disguise. Anyways, this clown wants us all to ignore the RSF Index. Why? Because he claims that it's not in line with "local values" and tainted with a "Western bias of freedom" (via Bernama).

Malaysians and other Asians should ignore the press freedom ratings made by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as the body is not a judge on local values

Local values, eh? Well, let's see... sycophantic behavior - good... truth and transparency - bad. Yeah, okay. He's got a point.

The clown went on to add,

Malaysians and Asians should not be worried about the drop in rankings of press freedom in Malaysia as it did not really illustrate the actual truth of press freedom in the country.

The clown seems to want us to conveniently forget the Sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of the print press in this country - The Printing and Presses Act, 1948 (which has been repealed, and replaced with the 1984 version). All this, coming from the same clown who said that the PM doesn't need to know the truth from the press.

In any case, let's look at the actual truth of press freedom that we have here in Malaysia (taken from the WACC website):

The Printing Presses and Publications Act

This Act, a law governing the press in Malaysia, was introduced and passed in 1984. Apart from providing powers to the Home Minister to grant or withdraw a printing licence or a publishing permit (which was also stipulated in its predecessor, the Printing Presses Ordinance of 1948), the new law also extended controls over foreign press in that it required foreign papers and journals to pay large deposits which would be forfeited if the publishers did not appear in court to face charges of publishing materials 'prejudicial to the national interest'. The Ministry officials were given powers to censor or ban the offending publications.

The Act was considered draconian and very restrictive by critics and human rights activists (see, for instance, Chandra, 1986: 1-4). In contrast with the old Printing Presses Act of 1971, the amended Act of 1984 prohibited an applicant of a printing licence or publishing permit, whose application had earlier been rejected by the Home Minister, from making an appeal to the King. In short, the Act disallowed judicial review and the Home Minister's decision was final.

(more of the "real" truth, in the full post)

In addition, the amended law also differed from the old one in the sense that the previous law empowered the Minister concerned to grant a permit of 12-month duration while the 1984 Act gave the Minister the power to grant a permit with a much more limited duration if he so wished. In other words, the 1984 Act further enhanced the power of the government to control the press in the country.

As if this were not enough, amendments were made to the Act in 1987. They clearly illustrate the stranglehold the government has on the media. Under the amended Act, all mass circulation newspapers in Malaysia need to have a printing permit, granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, before they can be published. A new permit needs to be applied for every year. Section 13A of the amended Act totally empowers the Home Minister to reject applications for a printing licence (popularly known as the 'KDN') and to revoke or suspend a permit. The Minister's decision is final and cannot be challenged in a court of law. As stated under Section 13, sub-section (1) of the Act (emphasis added):

Without prejudice to the powers of the Minister to revoke or suspend a licence or permit under any other provisions of this Act, if the Minister is satisfied that any printing press in respect of which the licence has been issued is used for printing of any publication which is prejudicial to public order or national security or that any newspaper in respect of which a permit has been issued contains anything which is prejudicial to public order or national security, he may revoke such licence or permit.

On top of this, Section 7 of the amended Act empowers the Minister to prohibit the printing, sale, import, distribution or possession of a publication. The Minister may do this if he believes that the contents of a publication threaten morality, public order, security, public or national interests, conflict with the law or contain provocative matters. Thus, one has this situation where the decisions of one Minister are binding and, strictly speaking, the Minister is under no obligation to explain these decisions.

(source: "Ownership and control of the Malaysian media" - WACC)

Yes, the real truth is that when it comes to Press Freedom, we don't really have much. "Freedom" is at the discretion, and pleasure, of the Home Minister, whose decisions are final, and without the benefit of judicial review.

And if 1948 sounds familiar, it's the year that a number of draconian acts were introduced, post-WW2, to clamp down on the dissatisfied Malayan people's political awakening. Walski's Hartal post provides some context. There's also another pretty creepy (and crappy) piece of legislation that was introduced the same year. And to present it, we now take a look at another clown, as reported by The Star a couple of days ago (hat-tip to Marina M.).

Image hosting by PhotobucketMicrosoft survey!? What Microsoft survey?

Image hosting by PhotobucketNow this clown's pretty young in comparison with the first one, which is (dis)heartening to note - that the legacy of clowns is destined to continue for sometime to come. What the article says is so clownish, Walski is compelled to reproduce parts of it here (emphasis by myAsylum).

“A Microsoft survey in Malaysia revealed that respondents preferred to surf entrepreneur-type websites and sites which provided positive efforts to improve family relations,” said Energy, Water and Communications Deputy Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor.

Political websites garnered the least interest from them,” he told Datuk Idris Haron (BN -Tangga Batu).

Somebody should quiz Microsoft to find out
(a) exactly what survey this clown is talking about, and
(b) if they are willing to release the full results (assuming it exists in the first place)

And "sites which provided positive efforts to improve family relations"? Oh, you mean PORN... as the old made-up adage goes - incest is best, relatively speaking... C'mon Shaziman... you may be able to fool the dolts that sit in Parliament, but the general public has a tad bit more faculties than to swallow this diatribe wholesale.

But wait, there's more...

“The Government has guaranteed the freedom of the Internet through the MSC Bill of Guarantee and Section 3 (3) of the Act, but that doesn't mean that Internet users are given absolute freedom to misuse such facilities.

“However, there is no need for a new Act to deal with bloggers publishing negative viewpoints, since laws such as the Sedition Act can be used.

Negative viewpoints = Sedition?? Holy archaic legislation, Batman... there wouldn't be so many negative viewpoints in the first place if the Government were doing a proper job in the first place. Talk about the Emperor not wanting to know just how naked he is...

One thing to note, however: a commenter at Marina's blog stated that the Sedition Act can be used to quell any negative sentiments against the Government (emphasis by myAsylum).

"Section 3(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 defines those acts defined as having a seditious tedency as acts with a tedency, among others, to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government. So, techinically speaking, yeah, negative comments against the government are by default seditious. Remember, you only have to act with a TEDENCY to excite DISAFFECTION against the govt, which includes the slightest criticism of the govt which will certainly cause at least some readers to feel a little bit of negative feelings towards the govt. That's why this law is totally open for abuse and has been abused on many occasions."
(source: Anonymous at RantingsbyMM)

Incidentally, the Sedition Act, like the original Printing and Press Act, was also intially enacted in 1948. Coincidence? Walski doesn't think so. It just goes one step further to prove that the restrictive (and yes, draconian) laws we have today are a living legacy of our British colonial masters, who implemented these laws back in 1948 to extinguish growing dissent and political realization. Back home, and over half a century later, the British have, of course, lightened up a lot. Not so here... and we dare complain about "Western bias" and not adhering to "local values"?

It is also interesting that the current Printing and Press Act has the year 1984 associated with it, isn't it?

There are, of course, many other clowns that Walski could bring your attention to. But the point is that these clowns are trying to outdo each other, in their bid to be the best sycophants they can be.

And in this Clown Wars that we're seeing day to day, there is one, and only one, party on the real losing end, casualties in this stupid war of verbal diarrhoea - we the People.