The Column That Wasn't
By Marina Mahathir
Folks, I’m posting here what should have been my Musings column tomorrow. The Star has refused to publish it because, after what happened to P. Gunasegaram’s article which was pulled out after the Home Ministry gave them a show-cause letter, they don’t want any ’sensitive’ articles that may jeopardise their KDN permit.
Now I’ve been writing for the Star for about 20 years now, believe it or not, and although it would be much easier and freer to just blog, I maintain my column because of the discipline and because of my many loyal readers who don’t necessarily read anything online. There have been other times when my column has been in danger of being censored (and very occasionally edited to sound gentler and nicer..) but still they came out when they were supposed to.
But this time they were adamant. As it happened, this evening I attended a dinner held by the MCA for NGOs. The MCA, as you may know, owns The Star. It was high irony for me to have so many people, including top MCA officials, tell me that they faithfully read my column when their own paper won’t publish it tomorrow. I was seated next to Dato Sri Ong Tee Keat himself and complained about it but he wasn’t keen to rock the boat, even though every time someone like me is censored, it’s one point gained by the conservatives who, rather than argue things out with proper facts, would simply prefer to shut everyone up.
Of course the problem is the Publishing and Printing Presses Act itself which requires every single publication to apply for a permit every year. And no media which wants to survive can afford to get shut down.
But still there is room for courage, to stand up for freedom of speech. If we capitulate every time, then why bother publishing at all?
Indeed the space for any form of public discussion is narrowing every day, with not only the PPA being used but also police reports against anyone who puts forward the slightest alternative or opposing view. This is what keeps the cops busy these days, instead of catching snatch thieves, robbers, rapists and other real social ills.
Yet online there is room for all points of view and is it really so bad? In this blog, I allow all points of view and what I’ve found is that when you allow it, apart from a few stubborn ones, eventually the humanity of everybody comes through. There is a yearning to understand one another but that can’t be done if there is no space for learning. Nor would you gain that insight into people if you didn’t allow everyone to express themselves.
And as many have pointed out, what is the point of censoring the mainstream media when there is the freewheeling internet? The other point we should make to people like The Star is, what is the point of constantly sucking up to the Government when they can still turn around and bite you? Not everyone has to be Utusan. Self-respect is important too, no?
So anyway, here’s the Column That Wasn’t:
[The column is not in today's Star]