Ever since I was a little child, I was peppered with proverbs like ‘kerana mulut, badan binasa’ and ‘mulut tu, kena insurance sikit’ etc. My mouth was also peppered with countless of chillies as a result of my ‘celupar’ mulut. Hey, I was an active child…orally. But during my university years, I developed a firm conviction that the absolution of freedom of speech is the way to go, without any restrictions or boundaries.
I live in Malaysia, you see. And lately, we’ve been tortured with recriminations from our political leaders branding each other as ‘racists’. Now, Malaysia has a black spot in her history in the form of a racial riot in 1969. Thus, a certain degree of delicacy must be maintained when it comes to race relations and of course branding each other as racists and making statements deemed racist. Some people would want action to be taken against those who are deemed racists or racialist, whatever. In my country, freedom of speech is stifled under the pretext of preserving the harmony and sensitivities of the communities in our country by using the Sedition Act and in certain cases, the Internal Security Act.
Why must free speech be absolute? Because it is something inherent in each and everyone of us. It is an inalienable right. Without it, we’re nothing. The notion of communication, which shares ideas with your fellow man and forwards opinions, enriches knowledge between the communicator and communicated. The moment you stifle free speech, you create a climate of fear in society to exchange ideas. The volume of interaction is lost and mitigated within the community. When a government bans your thoughts, the government is essentially de-legitimising your thoughts. No intellectual discourse. Since the interpretation of what is seditious is interpreted by the authorities, how are we supposed to know if what we’re writing and saying is seditious? What constitutes sedition is very wide and more importantly SUBJECTIVE. You cannot objectify something which is subjective. Its like retrospective laws. It oppresses minorities, in this case the dissenters (opposition), its like the idea of policing morality, but that’s another topic…..
So, why must the authorities arbitrarily say what a person says is seditious, when other people (in most instance, the majority) thinks it is perfectly normal? Reminds me of a certain cartoonist. Things that are of academic or satirical value are construed as dangerous and consequently banned because it threatens/criticizes the government in power. Yes, the opinion of one has the ability to sway the opinions of others. So, why not muzzle the dissenting one and only allow the government’s take on an issue? If there is only one stream of opinion available to listen, shouldn’t we all follow that ‘persuasive opinion’? If this logic applies, the rakyat would of course, be all pro-gov.
But not every rakyat is pro-gov. That’s because we’ve moved past the age where ‘the government is right’, and where propaganda plays a major part in shaping social mores. We question, we inquire, we’re educated, and we read. We see for ourselves the injustices and the wrongs that even multi-billion ringgit propaganda cannot rectify. We know our rights and consequently demand for more rights. In short, we have matured. Thus, we our quest for the liberalization of unlimited free speech for the self-actualization of the rakyat continues….
Next.. further analysing why free speech must be absolute. Hate speech, defamation, false information! Wait for Part 2!
Written by: Bukit Mertajam