Friday, February 8, 2013

Freedom of Thoughts and the Press

Freedom of the Press in Malaysia received a very low rating by the Reporters Without Border (RWB) report for 2013. It's rated lower than the freedom of the Press in countries like Zimbabwe,Fiji, Oman, Cambodia, Vietnam etc. The reason seems to be that the mainstream news media (MNM is owned by the government and while pro-government news is played up, news and views from the opposition parties are played down or even stopped from reaching the public. Though the informal news media as provided by the Internet is now very active, the information from this source is always taken with a pinch of salt.

Does a lower level of Press freedom also mean less freedom of expressing views and thoughts by the public?

The mainstream news media (MNM) certainly set the standard for freedom of speech and expression of thoughts in any country. When the mainstream news media (MNM)itself is clearly biased by being too pro-goveernment,people's thinking can also become biased. They can see that MNM is not presenting the whole truth about anything and that there's too much of propagsndizing going on. This becomes more and more obvious as other informal news media come out with the opposite of what the MNM prints. The more propagandistic the MNM becomes the greater will be the distrust generated among members of the public.

By the same token views contrary to or opposed to those expressed by the MNM will be suppressed or, if carried by the informal media, will be nullified.Truth becomes more and more illusive unless the views expressed by the MNM is accepted as such without any doubt. Everything and anything which runs contrary to those expressed by the MNM will be condemned, censored or proclaimed as false and untrue. The public and the ordinary men-in-the-street will little or no chance of airing their views which run contrary to those accepted by tne government.

Such a situation will certainly banish public debate on any controversial national policy, program and government's action. All discussion will be confined to explainingg and extolling the government's stand. The public will become more and more sceptical of all government programs since there is no critical review at all, or otmherwise become very gullible. Critical thinking will become dead since it will be dangerous to do so. Even in schools, colleges and universities critical thinking wiil be shunned and suppressed as it is considered dangerous. Gatherings to discuss policies, programs and issues would not be allowed if held bey parties not supportive of, what more opposed to the government.

What will the nation become then? What will a nation become when there is no critical thinking to stop the government from undertaking policies and programs which are considered wasteful and counter-productive? There will inly be 'yesmen' and zombies.

Truth will only emerge when there is contraversy, critical thinking and public debate on anything that affects the life of the people in the nation. Otherwise, when it finally does emerge, there can only be regrets and disappointment.

Let's not allow our nation to drift in that direction. Let's have more freedom of thoughts and opinion, and freedom of the Press. The mainstream news media should be more tolerance of views and opinion contrary to those adopted by the government while the informal news media should be more objective and factual in presenting their arguments and criticism. Only then could freedom of thoughts and critical thinking be promoted in the nation.

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