I read the news everyday. It’s just something I do. A ritual in the morning at work, if you will. However, I have begun to wean myself off the mainstream media because there is only so much propaganda a person can take.
This year, Malaysia has hit a brand new low in the Press Freedom Index. Ranked 145 out of 179 countries, we’ve dropped a whopping 23 places from 2012. Now, my math isn’t stellar but I believe that puts us in the bottom 20th percentile in the world. Our dear neighbour down south is faring even worse than us at 149.
This depresses me. I graduated with a public relations degree, our lecturers constantly drilled into us the importance of journalism integrity, of how important it is to tell the truth. Tell the truth, because if you don’t, soon enough people will find out. And then you’d lose whatever credibility you ever had to begin with. What they forgot to tell us was how the press cannot tell the truth. To me, this is oppression, pure and simple. The authorities oppresses the voices of its people. It does not respect nor ensure that the freedom of speech that is the fundamental rights of every human being is respected. What are we left with, if even our voices are robbed or distorted beyond recognition?
Our mainstream media are mostly owned or affiliated with the government. I’ve had friends who’ve worked in the mainstream media before. The stories they tell beggars belief, and yet it’s true. Editors who tell you to remove certain words, sentences, or even block the publishing of entire articles because it shows the authorities in a less than favourable light. These people are scared to death of offending the hand that feeds them. And why should they not be? Press licenses in Malaysia are only renewable at the sole discretion of the Home Affairs Minister. If you offend this one person, you can kiss goodbye to your press license and possibly your career in journalism for good.
Still, it does leave a bad taste in my mouth when I see blatant propaganda thinly veiled as the truth across all the mainstream media. Sometimes I wonder how these people sleep at night, knowing that they’ve spewed out lies upon lies to the hundreds and thousands of people reading the news everyday. We are luckier, compared to those in China, North Korea and the likes, in the sense that our internet is not as heavily censored. Yes, it is certainly censored, the authorities may deny it, but we all know better. Still, we are fortunate enough to have access to alternative news sources and social media channels that can provide us with a different version of the tales purported as truths by the people who have become mere puppets of the authorities. Through those alternative news channels, we get a better idea of what’s happening. We get to see that journalism integrity is not completely dead in this country. Through social media, we get the uncensored voices of the people. People who have had enough of having their voices distorted or taken away. People who take it upon themselves to tell the truth as they see it because they are all sick and tired of the lies.
Yet, the abuse of power has no end in sight. The voices of the people are getting louder each day. But will it be enough to drown out the lies?