For the first time, the mainstream media and bloggers worked together for a common cause. At long last, some msm journos, mainly from the Star, plucked up enough courage to send the message that they are fed up of toeing the line and being told what to report. They have been the butt of other alternative media’s jokes and a journo can only take so much before it’s time to speak up or be damned further.
Zaid did not have an easy time. In fact, he was booed, jeered and heckled and subjected to some tough questioning on media freedom. Some of his statements did not go down well with the journos and bloggers as many expected him to play to the gallery. But he didn't. He spoke as a politician and deftly lobbed back the grenades thrown at him.
Still, the fact that he accepted the invitation to turn up for the dialogue at the National Press Club says something about this man, who is already under attack by some of his Umno party members for his reformist ways.
It's a start and journalists should engage liberals like Zaid Ibrahim and Ahmad Shabeery Cheek to support their initiatives It will be a good start if the one-off KDN can be issued, like Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has proposed, as a first step towards the repeal of the press laws.
The walk itself was interesting in the ironic sense that there were more reporters, journos and photographers covering it in the line of duty than those of us who walked for media freedom. Besides Chun Wai’s cameo appearance at the talk, there was no sign of the other msm editors or staff at all.
Press freedom is not the answer to all problems. In fact it’s no answer at all if journalists are unwilling to take some risk to express their views.
We all talk about press freedom, yet very few dare to speak or write out of turn even on the most basic of issues. So what good is greater press freedom if we are afraid to use it?
We can talk about press freedom till the cows come home. But try to tell that to media owners – government and private. If they say no go, no amount of press freedom can help you.
Even when you’re not writing about politics you can still be punished. Imagine if you write unfavourably about a company or a businessman, you will have to worry about advertisements being withdrawn and subscriptions being cancelled.
If there’s no licensing or registration of newspapers and magazines, there will be widespread plagiarism and copyright infringements.
And between Zaid and Ahmad Shabery Cheek, I will take my chances on the latter anytime. At least he is elected by the people.
I personally would take Zaid’s promises with a generous pinch of salt.