Mahathir was the de facto Agong of Malaysia who hated freedom of media

TTF: Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared yesterday that the public and media will “have back” their freedom if PPBM takes Putrajaya (see news item below). Now, can someone please tell me when was this freedom ever taken from us?

Wait…I remember. It was taken from us back in 1981!

Yes, the minute Mahathir became Prime Minister, he turned the mainstream media into a propaganda tool to stylise truths and whitewash crimes. That allowed him to loot taxpayer-ringgit and suck up Bank Negara’s reserves the way a blowfish would suck sea water.

But that’s not all.

The media also presented him a platform to justify the detention of 106 activists from all walks under the now defunct ISA. The law, used repeatedly to stifle resistance against his administration, caused the man on the street to cringe at the idea of voicing dissent against government. The media highlighted only the ‘atrocities’ committed by the detainees and refused to publish their grouses or opinions.

By the late eighties, there was no such thing as press freedom in Malaysia. By then, Mahathir was akin to the King of Siam who the people of Thailand dared not utter a word against. As a matter of fact, he weakened the Monarchical Institution to such an extent (READ HERE), he more or less became the “de facto King of Malaysia.”

In 1996, he censored concerts by renowned singer/composer M. Nasir when the latter questioned “Who is Mahathir.” What is so ironical about the whole affair is that the former premier now praises Dato’ Sheila Majid for voicing her dissent against government. Tell me, do you see Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak censuring Sheila for what she did?

No.

Seriously, right up to the moment Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister, freedom of media in Malaysia was something of a joke. One of Mahathir’s loudest critics was John Berthelsen, a onetime a correspondent with the Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ). Now, the former premier wasn’t very pleased with this Berthelsen fellow.

As a result, he censured the AWSJ for posting a series of articles written by Berthelsen and a Raphael Pura that accused his administration of fraud. But today, the former premier claims that the WSJ “is a credible source of information.” See the hypocrisy yet?

An excerpt from an article I authored recently goes as follows:

The publications cost Berthelsen and Raphael their work permits and prompted the New York Times (NYT) to censure Mahathir for attempting to conceal his crimes. In a 30th of September 1986 release, the paper quoted a Leonard R. Sussman as saying that the climate for press freedom in the whole region had deteriorated because of Mahathir’s dictatorial and oppressive ways.

Even after leaving office, Mahathir deliberately held up copies of an authoritative biography that was critical of his 22 years in office. The biography, the Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times, was conceived through a book that was written by the late Barry Wain, a former correspondent with the AWSJ who was himself based in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Now, tell me, would you be reading all of this if Mahathir were still the Prime Minister of Malaysia?

No.

You won’t, because I’ll probably be in jail right now. That having been said, the very notion that freedom of media is more stifled these days is fundamentally flawed, simply because the internet was not ‘a thing’ back during Mahathir’s era. Just take a look at the following video and see what I mean (it’s self explanatory):

Thanks to the internet, we now have the DAP and Danny Lee funded Malaysiakini and Free Malaysia Today as well as the Apandi Ali supported The Malaysian Insight. Tell me, if Mahathir were to become Prime Minister all over again, do you think he’d allow such channels to exist?

Perhaps this will help you decide:

Now, are you actually going to defend him by saying he ‘suddenly’ realised pornography was available online? If you are, then I suggest you read the following:

Mahathir: The social media is good for me to irritate a lot of people

Once you do that, you’ll realise why bloggers like me will no longer exist the minute he becomes Prime Minister. Under the circumstances, all you’ll be left with is a government apparatus restructured in ways that suits his prejudices and exalts his status (once again) as the “de facto King of Malaysia.”

SHAH ALAM: The public and the media will have their freedom of speech back if Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) take Putrajaya, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pledged today.

The former prime minister-turned-Opposition leader said they will also not direct state apparatus such as the police to investigate their critics and rivals’ speeches and social media posts.

“We will return the freedom of speech of individuals and the media,” the PPBM chairman said during the party’s inaugural annual general meeting (AGM) here.

During his administration, Dr Mahathir was blamed for among others the 1987 Ops Lalang, which was credited with giving the now defunct Internal Security Act (ISA) the reputation of being a “white terror”, after the security law was used to detain 119 people.

His administration had also withdrew the licences of English dailies The Star and Sunday Star, the Chinese language Sin Chew Jit Poh, and the Malay language Watan.

Dr Mahathir added today that if PH takes over Putrajaya, it would also ensure a separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, and their independence.

He also said that PH will no longer practise blacklisting individuals and companies, while those holding important posts cannot easily be fired without reason.

A PH administration would also have a Registrar of Societies (RoS) that decides on a registration in under two weeks.

Most of PH parties have faced trouble with the RoS, with PH itself still unregistered for months.

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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