Happy Birthday, Malaysia Today

Yesterday, Friday the 13th of August 2010, was Malaysia Today’s birthday. Malaysia Today was launched six years ago on the 13th of August 2004, which happened to also be a Friday. As my ‘birthday article’ I would like to rehash what I wrote back in 2004 soon after Malaysia Today hit the scene. I have not made any changes or amendments to what can be considered my ‘mission and vision statement’.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia Today: the Free Malaysia Campaign

On 2nd September 2004, the day Anwar Ibrahim was freed from jail, many came up to ask me what I would now do with my time. Since Anwar was now free, they reckoned, there would no longer be any need for a Free Anwar Campaign.

True, Anwar is now free, and it took us six years of blood, sweat and tears to achieve this, and true, now there is no longer any need for a Free Anwar Campaign, but that was only the first stage of the fight which started in 1998, I explained.

Now that Stage One is finished, we need to move into Stage Two. Anwar is now free so we no longer need a Free Anwar Campaign. But Malaysia is not yet free so we need to now launch a Free Malaysia Campaign. And that would take longer than the six years it took to free Anwar. It could easily take 60 years, or longer, a campaign that would go on long after we are all dead and gone from this world.

Shouting ‘Free Malaysia’ slogans or to say we have launched a Free Malaysia Campaign is fine but pointless if it is mere rhetoric. We need to put theory into practice, put our money where our mouth is. A free Malaysia would never be achieved until and unless we have the fundamentals of a free Malaysia, the aqidah (foundation) of a free society if you wish, and that would be the freedom to say and write what you believe in without fear or favour — in other words, a free media.

And, with that in mind, I launched ‘Malaysia Today: your source of independent news’ — which I actually launched on Friday 13th of August 2004, around two weeks before Anwar walked free. For all intents and purposes, Malaysia Today is a Free Malaysia Campaign that took off where the Free Anwar Campaign ended.

Malaysia Today, if you wish, is pushing the envelope. It is testing how far Malaysia under its new Prime Minister can honour, respect and tolerate free speech. Malaysia Today stands on the invisible boundary of the Sedition Act and the Internal Security Act, two laws that were created merely to stifle free speech and dissent.

I, as the Editor and owner of Malaysia Today, face the risk of prosecution under the many laws available to the government to clamp down on dissent, or even detention without trial in the event they fail to find a suitable law to get you under. But I am prepared to face that risk and suffer the consequences of my actions if what we gain in return is more freedom of expression.

When I launched Malaysia Today I promised no censorship. No one, how unreasonable or stupid his or her comments may be, will be barred from sounding out in Malaysia Today. And there will be no editing, and to ensure we achieve all this, we started a blog where readers can post their comments directly, bypassing the editor or webmaster, and where they will be free to say whatever they want, the way they want to.

I also invited some columnists to write fulltime for Malaysia Today — maybe an article or two a week — and I promised them they would be free to write whatever they felt like and that I would not dictate what they can and cannot do. They, in fact, blog their pieces direct.

Kirdatun Borhan is one of our more vocal columnists who attacks anything that walks and talks. Lately, Anwar Ibrahim became the brunt of her attacks. When she attacked Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, or the PM’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, everyone applauded. But when her attacks shifted to Anwar many became upset.

I knew this would happen but I just stood by and let it pass for many reasons. First, of course, was as explained above — the reason why I gave birth to Malaysia Today. The second being I wanted the opposition supporters and leaders to feel what the ruling party has endured these last six years.

The main argument to oppose Kirdatun’s attacks on Anwar is that she can attack Anwar if she wants to but only if she reveals her real identity and not hide behind her purdah (veil). Since 1998 we have had more than 100 anonymous ‘Reformasi’ websites mushrooming (and closing down after awhile) whose only purpose was to attack ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Umno and Barisan Nasional. None of these webmasters revealed who they are. They all hid behind ‘veils’.

Did we scream and shout that they can only attack Dr Mahathir if they reveal themselves and not hide behind their computer screens? Why the double standards?

We must be able to take the medicine we dish out. We attack Dr Mahathir, Pak Lah, and anything related to the ruling party even if they do the right thing, but we cannot accept anyone criticising us and give all sorts of excuses such as because we don’t know who they are.

Who are the webmasters of the more than 100 Reformasi websites and the hundreds of ‘ghost’ writers who contribute ‘hot news’ to these websites? Why are they also not brave enough to reveal themselves? Is it because they are scared of getting detained under the Internal Security Act? Was it not Anwar who said if you are scared of the risks then do not talk about the struggle?

It is time the opposition got a taste of its own medicine. It is time the opposition feels what the ruling party has endured these last six years. It is time the opposition realised it is not that perfect after all, and in many instances may not really be that better than the ruling party. It is time we made the opposition realise that compared to the ruling party it acts like spoilt schoolchildren.

A free Malaysia will only be realised when there is freedom of expression. Before we achieve freedom in other areas we must first achieve freedom of speech. If not, then true freedom will never be realised. And not only the ruling party but the opposition too must be knocked on the head until they understand, respect and honour this.

Kirdatun wrote her final article last week. She has asked me, in no uncertain terms, to close down her column this week. But I refuse to do so. If she refuses to write anymore then I will just leave her column blank. The blog will still be there for anyone who wishes to comment and debate.

Incidentally, I met Anwar Ibrahim at a Hari Raya open house on Saturday afternoon and he expressed his sadness at Kirdatun’s column being retired. He felt we can never have the moral right to accuse the government of not respecting the right to free speech if we cannot first tolerate minor criticisms and comments against us.

So, Kirdatun, the ball is at your feet. Let us separate the trees from the forest. The issue is no longer about Anwar. Anwar, for all intents and purposes, was just the symbol of the need for reforms. Now that Anwar is free we need to move on to a bigger agenda, the freeing of Malaysia. If, in the fight to free Malaysia, we need to step on everyone’s toes, then so be it.

Umno supporters hate Malaysia Today. The Democratic Action Party (DAP) supporters hate Malaysia Today. The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) supporters hate Malaysia Today. The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) supporters hate Malaysia Today. The Anwarists hate Malaysia Today. The Islamists hate Malaysia Today. The Malay Supremacists hate Malaysia Today. (I hope all the other websites hate Malaysia Today as well).

That shows we are doing the right thing. So let us not stop here. There are still many segments of Malaysian society who are yet to hate us so much work still needs to be done. Please stay with us until we can get all 24 million Malaysians to hate us. Then you and I can happily retire for we would have completed the task of shaking the very foundation of free speech.