Freedom to write

“I won’t put down my pen, I won’t lay down my camera, I won’t shut up and I won’t be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same.”

– Jahabar Sadiq, editor of the now closed The Malaysian Insider

It was with great sadness to read the other day about the closure of The Malaysian Insider. It was a news portal that was independent, written in both Malay and English, informing the Malaysian public and the world of the realities of Malaysia.

The official line was that it was closing down because of lack of funds, which is true. But the reason why it was losing funding was because the Malaysian Government had put pressure on companies not to advertise with the organisation. The Government also blocked the site. The reasons for the pressure and block were due to the reporting on the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, a Malaysian state fund, which money from it has been allegedly embezzled. The Prime Minister Najib Razak is the head of its advisory board and was caught up in investigations as to how US$681m ended up in his bank account and where it came from. The Prime Minister has been cleared in Malaysia of any wrongdoing. Many investigators including the FBI, Swizerland, Hong Kong and Singapore are examining the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

The Malaysian Insider reported that there was evidence of a criminal charge against the Prime Minister. Shortly after, its site was blocked. Three weeks later, it shut down.

I came across the editor’s obituary of the Malaysian Insider in the Guardian. The site had 59 staffers, representing 1 Malaysia in its true form: the Malay, Chinese and Indian peoples of Malaysia. “We were becoming too free,” he writes, “as the government side of the news became the object of derision and ridicule.” The press has become too free in Malaysia, thanks to the internet. But blocking and arrests “make people shut up,” and shut down, to borrow his sentiment.

Whether it is writing to uncover the truth, or to question convention, it is incredible how the pen, or the keyboard can upset Governments, fanatics and the status quo. But as Sadiq fears, we cannot be prisoners in our minds because of repression. He urges us not to put down the pen or shut down the laptop.

The photo below comes from The Malaysian Insider’s site. You see the 59 or so staffers smiling and vivacious, even though an organisation that is so dear to them comes to a close. The top of photo lies the caption in bold capital letters: Thank you Malaysia.

I hope that Malaysia, in return, thanks you.

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