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Do we have the freedom to wear black?

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The one smash that the military police in Xinjiang hit out at a Hong Kong reporter completely crushed the faith Hong Kong residents have towards the central government in Beijing, as well as their hope for a democratic society promised by it.

Early September, a Hong Kong reporter executing his duty in Urumqi was beaten by the military police and was charged by the local authorities for sedition. The incident has sparked inflamed reactions across Hong Kong and a march to defend journalisic freedom.

Some 700 reporters and members of the public took to the street, wearing black and tying red threads around their wrists.

The black shirts denote sorrow for the disregard for press freedom, while the red threads signify indignation that a journalist has been treated brutally.

That was not the first time Hong Kong journalists have taken to the street to claim justice for press freedom, but if the Chinese authorities do not offer a sincere apology or learn a lesson from the incident, it would be hard for them to convince the Hong Kong public.

Many governments often talk about democracy, but are least aware that press freedom is in fact the cornerstone for a democratic government.

Beating up reporters, wearing black shirts and red threads are no strangers to us here in Malaysia.

On 2 September, the day after some countries celebrated the Journalists' Day, a Nanyang Siang Pau photojournalist was pushed on the floor and brutally kicked by police personnel while he was carrying out his journalistic duty in Ipoh.

It is the obligation of the police to preserve social order. Deliberately beating up reporters reflects only their gross disrespect for human rights.

If they would show their ugly faces in front of journalists on duty, how could we expect them to treat ordinary citizens like us with some reasonable degree of respect?

As such, it is not difficult for us to understand why the police in Perak banned the public from wearing black earlier on and absurdly arrested those not abiding by the police directive.

In the face of inequality and injustice, Hong Kong journalists and residents could still choose to initiate a public rally or wear black shirts to express their dissatisfaction and fury.

We don't even have the freedom to wear black here, let alone demonstrate in defence of press freedom!

A reporter's job is to tell the truth. A society that blocks journalistic works and disregards press freedom is but a stagnant one.

How could a society that denies even the most fundamental human right of wearing black safeguard the public's right of information? How could a society like this ever attain a higher level of civic advancement?

The demonstration by Hong Kong protestors wearing black should perhaps serve as a wake-up call and warning for both our local journalists and police. (By TAN POH KHENG/Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)

MySinchew 2009.09.17



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