Why go after the messenger?

Boo Su-Lyn

Boo Su-Lyn, Malay Mail Online

The right to know may not be guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, but freedom of information is a feature of most developed democracies. 

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali’s call for harsher punishment for journalists—life imprisonment and caning—under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) for reporting state secrets makes Malaysia seem like a dictatorship. 

As it is, journalists find it extremely difficult to obtain data and information in Malaysia. We can’t even get simple data like rape statistics, or how government departments like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) spend their huge allocations.  

Now, the government wants to go after whistleblowers and journalists who report on state secrets, which would invariably involve matters of public interest.

By demanding that journalists reveal their sources or risk being considered as collabourators to saboteurs, the AG is, in effect, intimidating the media from reporting on cases of corruption involving government officials.

The AG claimed that leaking state secrets would threaten national security and lead to the toppling of the government. 

In a democracy, the government exists to serve the people. They are supposed to be accountable to voters. The role of the media is to inform the public, especially on issues of national interest.

We should be moving towards abolishing the OSA and enacting a Freedom of Information Act. A developed country is not measured just in terms of its GDP, but how it protects human rights and fundamental liberties. 

Democracy isn’t just about casting a ballot once every five years. It’s about constantly ensuring that the government allocates resources the way the electorate wants them to. A vote for a particular political party doesn’t give it carte blanche to spend our tax monies any way it likes.