For almost 20 years, members of the Freedom Film Network (FFN) have been sharing stories on poverty, inequality and injustice in Malaysia. These stories of ordinary people are important, even more so today as we live against a backdrop of fear: fear of intimidation and harassment from those who want to silence these stories.
The politics of fear has made us afraid to broach the subjects of poverty, inequality and injustice, and to view them as not our problems, not our issues, not our struggles.
But as we at FFN have shown through our films, this should not be the case.
All these social justice stories are important to us as Bangsa Malaysia. They unveil what is beyond the surface and bring to light the human interest issues facing our nation, many of which are often not covered by the media.
Yet, the authorities appear to think otherwise.
Earlier in July, FFN executive director Anna Har and five activists were summoned by the police in connection to the film Chili Powder & Thinner. The five were Amin Landak, Sevan Doraisamy, Mohamad Alshatri, Kua Kia Soong and Sharon Wah.
Chili Powder & Thinner is a real-life story about a young boy’s experience of torture while in police custody. FFN premiered the film at a time when there were four reported custodial deaths within two months. Instead of investigating the torture documented in the film, the police decided to investigate the messenger – the activists who had asked for accountability.
Despite the investigation, we will not be silenced. We believe injustices must be made right. We believe the voiceless need to be heard.
Together with our partners, the Centre of Independent Journalism, Amnesty International Malaysia and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, we organised a solidarity day of action on July 10 to rally members of the public to call for a stop on all investigations and intimidation of individuals related to the film. We also called for the setting up of the long-overdue Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in Malaysia.
On that day, 16 human rights film festivals from Argentina to Germany to the Philippines held simultaneous screenings of Chili Powder & Thinner to urgently call for action and solidarity. Then within days, the views for the film jumped threefold. The petition calling for the setting up of the IPCMC garnered close to 38,900 signatures.
Civil society organisations and art organisations also banded together to stand with us. In all, 133 local and international organisations signed joint statements calling for the police to drop their investigations and set up the IPCMC in Malaysia.
This outpouring of support is proof that in the face of fear, we need to continue to speak up against injustice.
We need to bear witness through our stories, to continue to be a voice for the voiceless, and to bring about change and reform.
Stand with us by watching and sharing the film Chili Powder & Thinner.
Let our voices be heard by getting our members of parliament to support the setting up of the IPCMC here.
Let us not forget that the fear of intimidation is real. From July 24 to 29, at least 39 people who had spoken up against injustice were questioned or charged. And this could have happened to any one of us, for our tweets or simply for carrying a black flag.
Rise up. Speak up. Fight for a better Malaysia.
We ALL want a better Malaysia. And we are not alone in this struggle for change and reform.
The rakyat is fighting back to save Malaysia: Contract doctors went on a nationwide strike for equality to better serve the country. The youth held a peaceful demonstration in the capital city to pressure the prime minister to resign. And content creators are using social media to protest against poor governance and to call for accountability from the politicians. #HartalDoktorKontrak, #Lawan, #BenderaPutih. This is our Malaysian story.
The rakyat’s voice is getting louder and it is steadily forming a strong and united movement, breaking down the barriers of race and religion to express one clear message: The rakyat stands for justice, truth, human rights and basic dignity.
We have succeeded to make change happen in 2018. We can surely succeed again.
Each of us can be part of this movement from wherever we are, be it through the online spaces or by wearing all-black outfits or at the ballot box. Speak up for justice. Speak up for our country. Speak up for our future.
We are Bangsa Malaysia. Stand with us at FFN and speak up.
This article has been updated since its original publication in the online media.