Why We Want a Free Press!

Authorities trying to limit the freedom of the press have been around for ages. However, innovation and advancement in technology have normally worked to foil these attempts. For example, how the creation of the modern printing methods by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450s succeeded in destroying the Roman Catholics monopoly of the Bible.

The Malaysian 2008 Elections is also a good example of how technology works to trump authorities trying to meddle with the free press. Armed with laptops, keyboards, and an internet access, bloggers all around Malaysia begin a ‘live’ telecast on the mismanagement and corruption plaguing the country. The results were a widespread resentment of the local population (at least in the Northern States) towards the Malaysian Government.

The revelation of the ‘Zakaria Mansion’, the judiciary scandal, the Mongolian assassination (by a C4 explosive!!!), and various other occurrence shook the citizens of Malaysia to the core (although the economy and the cost of living was the real cause of the National Fronts poor election outcome). Nevertheless, the press yet again shows that it is without doubt the ultimate ‘enforcer’ of the law.

Recently, there were calls by newspapers to waive the annual licensing requirement for newspapers under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). In terms of the interest of the people, of course it should be waived! Yet the Government is obviously not going to do so (at least in the foreseeable future) because this would just help spawn more anti-government articles.

Sometimes it is funny how we call Malaysia a democracy if there is no free press. Human behavior (and also the Government’s behavior) is defined by incentives. According to Frederic Mishkin (2005), the press in America hunts for the slightest hints if corruption because uncovering corruption sells newspapers wins reporters Pulitzer prizes. The same cannot be said of the third world countries whereby the press in likely government controlled or influenced to cover up corruption by the government and state own businesses.

For the good of the people, we should vote for a freer press.



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