On 16 June 2021, Wednesday, BAC Law Society interviewed Tehmina Kaoosji on the topic of Freedom of Speech and Expression. Tehmina Kaoosji is an independent broadcast journalist, media personality, and advocate for gender equality based in Malaysia. The interview lasted from 1.30 p.m. to 3.00 p.m.
A series of questions were asked to Tehmina regarding the topic. On the true meaning of freedom of speech and expression, she answered, “I feel that the freedom of speech is not the freedom to abuse, nor the freedom to spew hate speech – so as long as we’re able to maintain within those respectful parameters, the rest of it is what we’re able to learn from our education, from our background as well as to centering human rights discourses.”
On why freedom of speech is important in general, Tehmina shares, “it is important that freedom of speech is upheld so that newsrooms can not just be inclusive in their culture but also inclusive in their coverage. That means that news rooms need to be setting their agenda in the media where the…people whose suffering or is most affected by an issue, are the ones whose voices are brought to the floor. That, to me, is utilising freedom of speech and expression to the best possible perspective when it comes to media.”
Other questions which were discussed in the interview are the extent and restriction of freedom speech; the most effective way of speaking freely but maintaining peace between parties; whether this way of speaking should be implemented in schools and institutions as early as kindergarten; when does free speech become destructive when it is meant to be constructive; how to cool off tension when there are conflicting views; the differences between countries which encourage versus restrict freedom of speech; whether censorship is necessary and the reasons for it; on the recent events of YB Syed Saddiq’s speech against deaths in police custody as well as Ain Husnizah speaking out against rape jokes; how anyone could speak out without suffering repercussions; whether freedom of expression is restricted due to the status of gender equality in Malaysia; as well as whether Malaysia will achieve total freedom of speech and expression in 10 years.
As an initiative, BAC Law Society conducted this interview in hopes to educate the public on how it is acceptable to voice out their thoughts and express their beliefs. As one can observe in the recent cases that are happening in the community, freedom of expression is still clearly restricted and not widely acceptable. Hence, BAC Law Society aimed to raise the awareness of the public on freedom of speech and expression and convey that everyone has the right to a voice when standing up for something through this interview. This also comes with the aim to encourage clarity in the news of current issues in the society.
All in all, the interview with Tehmina Kaoosji has yielded great insights for the freedom of speech and expression here in Malaysia. Some valuable takeaways from the interview were how freedom of speech and verifying sources starts from young, censorship is essential when it comes to issues which would propagate stereotypes, and the potential of carrying conversations which would ultimately lead to impactful social change in the years to come.
On whether Malaysia will achieve total freedom of speech and expression in 10 years, Tehmina shares, “…laws only have a multiplier effect when it comes to the impact they have on society. If we know (for instance) that women and girls are safe from a legislative perspective, that actually tumbles down and reaps the benefits from a societal perspective whereby fewer and fewer women and girls would be targeted over the next 10 years for speaking out and speaking their mind.”