What Do Our Freedoms Really Mean?

Is it all talk?

All around the whole, people have risen against dictatorship, cruelty and injustice. They have started to use words like ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. They have found hope in these words — it is after all their right to dig in and find out for themselves the meanings behind these words.

Here in Malaysia, we’re slowly adapting ourselves to those words. We have come a long way from the time when it was considered treasonous to question the government’s handling of national affairs.

The Federal Constitution (‘FC’) protects our rights against (not so) many things, and NGOs work to ensure that we can enjoy our rights to its full capacity.

But if we pause for a while and pay closer attention, we may see some real questions that need to be answered.

For whom do we really fight for? Do we really need to scream the word ‘freedom’ every single time to justify what we do?

Freedom of speech

It is guaranteed in Article 10 of the FC that we have freedom of speech — ie to express our opinions on any matter.

Yet, we have a couple being punished for making stupid jokes, an MP being taunted for expressing her belief that everyone should be given the same opportunity to choose his/her religion regardless of race, His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo being ‘chased’ (is that the right word) after for his fellatio article.

Of course, we can’t deny the fact that when people express their opinions, we cannot and do not control the response of others. Some may respond to it in the manner above, or some would just shake their heads and move on.

And some, after a long engagement over the matter on social media, will say — “I’m going to say this and you’re not going to deny me my right to say it.” Maybe followed by some more banter, and then that is it.

So from here, how do we expand the purpose of freedom of speech? Are we just going to use it to preach about our beliefs and mock another’s belief? To tell jokes and ask people to shut up when they are complaining because it’s your right to tell lame jokes?

I don’t know, you tell me.

Freedom of religion

It seems in Malaysia, the government already decided that they are the best decision-maker when controversial religious issues arise.

They banned the practice of Shi’a as they think Sunni is the best way for the Muslims to practice Islam.

They demand that the non-Muslims tolerate and understand the Muslims’ superiority — and those who question them are considered racists or traitors to the nation.

They’ve also been using Article 3 in the FC to control people and to justify their actions.

Remember how Nurul Izzah’s statement that freedom of religion was a right for all including the Malay Muslims led to UMNO and their friends from Barisan Nasional targeting her as trying to promote apostasy? She voiced out her opinion based on what she believes is guaranteed in the FC and she retracted the statement because of the manipulated response to it.

So what is the purpose of including the article in the FC when in reality, we are not going to use it?

I don’t know, you tell me.

Freedom of information

For 57 years, Barisan Nasional has been controlling the mass media in this country. Before the political tsunami in 2008, it can be said that the opposition parties were not able to communicate their message to the people. Their official publications such as Harakah, Suara Keadilan and The Rocket were the target of the Ministry of Home Affairs and were deemed to mislead and confuse the people.

When Pakatan Rakyat won 89 seats in the 2013 General Elections, it gave them more authority to expose the double standards of the mass media against them. They demanded that the journalists be allowed to report the truth, rather than being forced to follow the guidelines set by the government in reporting news.

However let’s not forget, in 2010, the DAP-led government in Penang and Pas-led government in Kedah made the dramatic decision to ban the media under Utusan Malaysia, Media Prima, and Radio Television Malaysia. The decision was made on the basis that they wanted to stop manipulation of news. With all this going on, I can’t help but to wonder — is Pakatan Rakyat really trying to fight for media freedom, or do they only want to help bring change when it benefits their component parties? For them to demand freedom of access to information but to deny the media’s presence in their press conference leaves me unconvinced.

So to what extent are we practicing the freedom of information here?

I don’t know, you tell me.

At the end of the day, we believe the word ‘freedom’ is meant only for us, so we go around doing things, telling people stuff, and claiming that we have the freedom to do it. We believe that freedom is autonomous and it is for everyone.

But do we even have freedom at all? Or is it just an illusion created by the so-called idealists for our subconscious mind to obey and tolerate the opinions of others?

I don’t know. And I’m asking you to tell me.


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Law student by day, babysitter by night. Don't worry, I don't encourage biting and scratching.

Posted on 26 February 2014. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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One Response to What Do Our Freedoms Really Mean?

  1. Pepper Lim

    Nice!