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LAST_UPDATEMon, 23 Jul 2018 8pm

What Does Press Freedom Mean To Pakatan Harapan, Really?

A month later, euphoria, joy and relief continue to lord in the hearts of the rakyat, all who are pleased that Malaysia has finally been saved from a corrupt regime.

Equally sanguine of the much needed change in government was the nation’s press fraternity, especially after the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government assured them of the freedom of expression and confirming the repeal of the Najib-initiated Fake News Act 2018.

So far as good until a veteran journalist, A Kadir Jasin in his personal blog post dropped the bombshell that some RM257 million was spent for the upkeep and personal expenditure of Sultan Muhammad V in the 16 months since he became the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

That revelation was enough to rattle Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister-in-waiting and PKR de-facto leader who took a knock at Kadir, who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member, for supposedly besmirching the image of the Agong.

The rebuff has however backfired and ended up instead as a guessing game with many wondering what has got Anwar’s goat at the mention of the unimaginable lavishness enjoyed by the Agong?

“While I support democracy and freedom of expression, what was said was inappropriate,” Anwar bemoaned to reporters after a closed door meeting with PKR assemblypersons and MPs on May 6.

Anwar cites decorum as the reason for his chiding Kadir, saying those singled out for criticism were unable to clarify such opinions.

“We have worked very hard to get the Malay rulers to appreciate this new administration,” Anwar had said, adding that such views were “unhealthy”.

Anwar’s unwarranted criticism is indiscernible. What exactly is “unhealthy” about the revelation made by Kadir – that the country’s King or Agong is a spendthrift? Or that the previous scandalous government under Barisan Nasional had played money politics with the Agong?

Whatever happened to freedom of the press? Why castigate a journalist for writing the truth? Whose interest by the way is at stake here – Kadir’s, Anwar’s or the King’s?

That Anwar had met up with several Malay rulers recently and pledged that Pakatan Harapan would safeguard royal institutions and constitutional rights of Malay and Islam is not a deal Pakatan Harapan had with Malaysians via its manifesto.

For Anwar to stray from Pakatan Harapan’s objective of good governance and instead profess allegiance to the country’s royalty does not sit well with Malaysians.

Is Anwar in effect hinting to the rakyat that they should be beholden to the monarchy for the change in government?

Press freedom remains a rhetoric

Do Malaysians not have the right to know how, where and for what purpose the country’s purse is emptied?

That said, would Anwar had been just as upset had journalists condemned the ill-conceived act of the Tunku Mahkota Johor who in April created chaos at a shopping mall in Johor Baru when he strutted in unexpectedly and offered to pay the grocery bill of every shopper up to RM3,000.

In the less than five minutes that he was at AEON Tebrau with his wife,  Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim had to fork out RM1 million. What however was unmaginable was the aftermath of his unwise gesture, with trolleys of food discarded by exhausted shoppers.

Would journalists be “punished” for criticising Tunku Ismail for his lack of wisdom in appearing out of no where and impress shoppers by sponsoring their shopping for the day?

In the case of the Kadir-bashing episode, it was hardly over with Anwar giving his peace of mind. Three days after Anwar gave Kadir a harangue, it was Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the Deputy Prime Minister, who jumped on the bandwagon, saying:

“I think some quarters find his comments sensitive but we do have the freedom of speech. However, even with freedom of speech you should be sensitive to others.”

It is amazing that both Anwar and his wife Wan Azizah, who is also PKR president, refused to address the real issue at hand, that of the alleged mind-boggling budget allocated to the Agong.

With Anwar and wife feigning ignorance and lashing out at the messenger i.e. Kadir, it seems the promise by Pakatan Harapan that press freedom would no longer be under siege has ended up as nothing more than a  rhetoric.

While the press, post-Kadir flaying by Anwar and Wan Azizah, scratches its head wondering what “freedom” means to the Pakatan Harapan government, Kadir went on to resign as the Council of Eminent Persons’ head of media and communications effective immediately.

Through his blog, Kadir tried to diffuse tension saying the decision to quit was to avoid confusion among the rakyat between his role within the council and his personal opinions.

Pakatan Harapan has given Malaysians its word that the days of a corrupt and malfeasance government are over. Yet, Anwar is playing politics, placating the royalty and raising one too many red flags to the press. Why?

Or could it be that the assurance of freedom of press is Pakatan Harapan’s first attempt at “fake news”?

-Berita Daily