Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free speech? What free speech?

The recent disciplinary action against DhiFM for covering the protest outside the President's residence on 28 Jan 2010 is a way to control the infant independent media in the country. Such acts will stifle the development of free media in the country.

Lots of people support the disciplinary action based on one or more of the following reasons:
1. Freedom of expression does not mean you can say what the hell ever you want.
2. The coverage was PROMOTING the protest rather than REPORTING it, which is not ok.
3. Journalists should be subject to journalistic ethics and responsibility.
4. Free speech does not mean you can yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre.

Lets examine the above one by one:
- If (1) is true, then it begs the question, does freedom of expression mean you have to say what someone else wants? If it is not you who decides what you should say, then who does? Who holds this authority? If there is such an authority, is there a meaning to the term 'freedom of expression'? It is free from what now?

- Does the mere act of covering it constitute promoting it as in (2)? What about the people who went around on pickups announcing to participate in the crowd. Do they not have that freedom? If one of them gives an interview and asks the viewers to participate, is it the media's fault, if it is a fault at all?

- Who defines these journalistic ethics as in (3)? What responsibility and to whom?

- (4) is a very famous one often repeated by those who want to stifle freedom. Actually one has the right to yell 'fire' in crowded theatre. What is s/he supposed to do if there is a fire? Does it not become an obligation in that situation? That makes it an obligation that we don't have the right to exercise! Actually the case of (4) is quite broad, which I will address in another post.

It is my opinion that such actions by the government will reduce the media freedom. Actually the fact that it is a licensed regime indicates that there is no room for free media and free speech.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What about the others?

It has been one year since the announcement of the government created Engineer's Cartel, officially known as National Building Professional Accreditation Regulation (NBPAR). As of now, it effectively creates a cartel of engineers (called Professional Engineers or PE) who are insulated from competition, the details of which I have discussed in an earlier post. As predicted, those engineers who do not have the magic stamp found it harder to get work. This is more prominent during a recession like now where projects are few and far between. I myself have met many clients who went elsewhere because I don't have the stamp (though I qualify for it). I have resisted joining it because it was against my professional code of conduct. But I can only hold out for so long.

As such I have proposed major amendments to the regulation to remove the monopoly power from the PEs. The details have been posted here. These amendments are being made to the regulation, and it has been put out for public comments from MHTE. Hopefully, it will be finalised and come into effect soon. Unless the existing PEs put a stop to it.

With clients taking projects elsewhere, and in light of the fact that the amendments are through, I have taken membership as a PE. But I just wonder, what about the other engineers who do not qualify. Where do they go?