NEW FRONTIERS, NEW BARRIERS? I was invited to become a panelist at Asean Insitute for Development Communication or Aidcom's talk shop to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which is today. Unfortunately, my work has brought me to Singapore for the republic's 2011 general election and I could not make it back in time for the conference, which is being held in Shah Alam. My editor at The Malay Mail, the dude who blogs as the notoriously satirical Hassan Skodeng, will take my place and fortunately for the organisers he is more eloquent than I am. The theme that Aidcom has chosen is "New Frontiers, New Barriers". It is an interesting slogan, given that this is the New Media age where freedom of the Internet has put pressure on the "Old Media" to catch up or become irrelevant. Malaysia, for that matter, has of the freest, if the not the most free, "New Media". Look at our blogs. Look at our online news, eg MalaysiaKini, Malaysian Insider, Sarawak Update, Sabah Kini, and Malaysia Today!
But free does not mean fair, as we start to know better. And the new barriers don't necessarily come from the Government.
A bit of background on today's World Press Freedom Day: In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as ‘World Press Freedom Day’ to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek. The document calls for a free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, characterising a free press as essential to democracy and fundamental human rights.
The Declaration of Windhoek is a statement of free press principles as put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on ‘Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press’ in Windhoek, Namibia from April 29 to May 3, 1991. In addition to practical problems related to the lack of adequate facilities, equipment and training for journalists, the document also enumerates instances of intimidation, imprisonment and censorship across Africa.