By Sim Kwang Yang ( SKY)
Since that installation of a new PM and a new federal cabinet, I get the impression that the new administration is going to tighten their rein on the media even further.
A reporter from the net portal Merdeka Review was banned from the PM’s press conference upon his first days of taking office – without any reason given. Then the PM himself had a private pet-talk with the editors of some major media organisations, presumably cautioning them against “irresponsible reporting”.
A major media conglomerate also sent out a memo to their staff members never to mention the Attantuya case at all. News about her, like her bombed body, would disappear into thin air, at least in the mainstream media.
Warning from the 3-in1 minister
Then the new media Tsar Datuk Rais Yatim cranked into action. He is the new minister in charge of the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Communication. The 3-in-1 minister warned the bloggers that those who “twisted the truth would have to face the music.”
Even a brave soul like Zorro Unmasked sent a signal of alarm to all bloggers to tread carefully, for this is a stark omen for a wave of persecution against bloggers who do not toe the official line.
Immediately, following the speeches given by Sultan Azlan Shah and his regent Nazrin, comments on the Internet were muted. That this is so does not negate the fact that bloggers and people in Perak can still think freely in the privacy of the skull and make judgement in the silence of their heart.
So it is back to media business as usual. The government knows best. The people are stupid and must swallow official announcements as the absolute Gospel truth, hook, line, and sinker.
The 3-on-1 minister has a Ph D degree in law. Still his proclamation ex-cathedra puzzles me.
What is the Truth?
So, if I twist the truth, I will have to face the music. But as Pontius Pilate washed his hands symbolically after sentencing Jesus to Death, he also asked, “What is the Truth?”
I used to study the original writings of great philosophers who were all searching for the Truth. They end up with a zillion theories but they cannot agree on any one definition of what the Truth is. Finally, the British Analytical School proclaimed that all these arguments are but confusion of linguistic usage. All you need to do is to clear up the confusion and the problems disappear.
Then, there was this fellow by the name of Heidegger who said that the Truth is not to be found in language.
Then there is the Christian conception of God as the ultimate absolute Truth. Again, we mortals cannot know that ultimate absolute truth. That is why you need faith. As the philosopher Kant said, “I have to deny knowledge to make room for faith.”
Because, we do not know the absolute Truth, all we have left is opinion only.
“Truth” or “Fact”?
So I do not know what the 3-1 minister is saying when he talks about twisting the truth. The Truth that philosophers and theologians talk about cannot be twisted. I think he means not “truth’, but “fact”.
Cold hard facts are the raw materials of science and the currency of good journalism. At least, that is the general perception.
But even so, facts do not exist in isolation. In an interconnected world, the fact that a man in Australia has farted can change the destiny of a butterfly in Beijing.
For instance, the fact still exists that Attantuya was killed by C4, and two men have been convicted for her murder. It is also a fact that the murderers do not have a clear motive for killing her. This fact persists whether the mainstream media report subsequent development or not. It is a kind of small “truth”.
A reasonable citizen blogger is entitled to his opinion on this fact. Bloggers are entitled to their opinions as long as those opinions are expressed responsibly, reasonably, and courteously.
Freedom of thinking thoughts
They have this God-given right to their opinions because of their God-given freedom of thought. Without thought, there is no opinion. Without the freedom of thought, a human being is no better than a brute beast.
So now the 3-in1 minister is now hurling veiled threat to bloggers about this confusing business of “twisting the truth”. He has the power of the law behind him. I have grown up under those repressive laws, have fought them, and am now ageing under them. I know them well.
The city of Athens also had their laws too. So they convicted Socrates with those laws, accusing him of “misleading the youths of Athens and spreading lies about their gods”. Socrates died by drinking the hemlock.
For the last 25 centuries, those judges of Athens have lived in infamy in the collective memory of mankind, while Socrates’ pursuit of Truth and Justice continued till this day through the teaching of his disciple Plato.
So what the 3-in-1 minister has said about the bloggers has little to do with truth, the kind of Truth aspired to by the European Enlightenment towards the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. The minister was merely trying to continue to manufacture synthetic truths through power. The only way to counter this will to power is negation and resistence through peaceful means.
The freedom of thought and the freedom of expression must never be surrendered, for my humanity cannot be denied.