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Drop all police action against Jeff Ooi and let’s all focus on how the country can have media freedom and religious tolerance for which all Malaysians can be proud and stand tall in the world
If action is to be taken against Jeff Ooi, then action should also be taken against those who appeared to be like-minded with Jeff Ooi that NST should be penalized for the cartoon, which would include former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, at least two Cabinet Ministers namely Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin and UMNO Youth.
I am not for a moment suggesting that action should be taken against other parties and individuals, including Mahahtir, Hishammuddin and Zainuddin, over Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur syndicated cartoon strip, but I am calling for all police action against Jeff Ooi to be dropped so that the country can focus on how to have media freedom and religious tolerance for which all Malaysians can be proud and stand tall in the world.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that after 28 months of the Abdullah premiership pledged to ben open, accountable and transparent, only baby-tottering steps had been taken on the front of press freedom, freedom of expression and information, together with the perception that some are “more free” than others.
This was one of the two issues intertwined in the NST cartoon controversy, the anguish about double standards with the indefinite suspension of Sarawak Tribune and the two-week suspension of the night edition of Guang Ming if NST is allowed to go scot-free.
Now, the questions of RTM2 (Chinese news) and RTM1 (Bahasa Malaysia news) having shown the controversial Prophet Muhammad caricature early this month have been raised.
Just as I have said that three wrongs do not make a right, similarly four or five wrongs would not make a right. Lets all eat humble pie and admit that we can make mistakes, and this includes the government in the excessive, disproportionate and unjustifiable suspension of Sarawak Tribune and Guang Ming night edition, both of which should be lifted immediately. All witch-hunting should be halted.
If New Straits Times had lodged the current police report against Jeff Ooi, it should be withdrawn.
Let plural Malaysia - the government, mass media, political parties, the religions, blogging community and the civil society - come together to develop a new understanding and concord which can expand both the frontiers of media freedom and religious tolerance.
We may then have a good and useful example for the world to learn from instead of our just imbibing the excesses from the rest of the world.
Yesterday Zainuddin spoke of “a new era” of “press freedom with social responsibility”. I will be the first to applaud Zainuddin if this heralds a change of heart and new mindset in completely discarding his Goebbels past of abuse of the Information Ministry for misinformation and disinformation.
If Zainuddin is really prepared for a new era of press freedom with social responsibility, he must publicly be prepared to concede that as Information Minister, he is only facilitator and not dictator of its definition and his role is to bring together all the stakeholders to reach a consensus on the meaning of “press freedom with social responsibility”. Is Zainuddin really prepared for a fresh start for “a new era”?
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman