Well, it happened again folks. I got censored. Apparently in the run-up to the elections, all of us columnists in the mainstream papers are supposed to be good and not say anything too critical of you know who. There are actually still some people who think that censorship works, as if the Internet doesn’t exist at all.
Let me say it again. I’ve been at the Star for more than 20 years and may well be one of their longest-serving columnists. I am very grateful for that opportunity to air my views, and in all fairness, over the 20 years and more than 500 columns, I’ve been censored maybe three or four times. I still get more people coming up to me who say they read my columns than who say they read my blog. So I feel a sense of loyalty to these readers and that’s why I don’t want to stop writing for the Star. Besides everyone could do with the discipline of writing for a paper, with its deadlines and word limits.
So although I understand the pressures that the paper comes under from certain quarters and the annoying limitations it puts not just on me but my fellow columnists like Zainah Anwar, Azmi Sharom, Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi and others, I will tolerate the cuts as long as I can also publish the full text on my blog, Facebook and Twitter. It just makes them look silly, right?
Besides if I suddenly sound quite different, my credibility will come into question. You’ll all start wondering what’s happened to me, or worse, who paid me off. So it behooves me to continue writing in my usual manner but then make sure you all know what’s happening if it gets cut.
Last time I complained about being censored, I got scolded for it from other bloggers. Not sure why. I don’t think I have any special privileges and therefore shouldn’t be subject to the same constraints as anyone else. But when it happens to me, or to anyone else, then I should complain or else it will mean that a) you won’t know what’s happening and b) censorship becomes the norm. All of us writing for the mainstream papers have been told to tone it down. They told us nicely and regretfully, because obviously people do buy these papers because they enjoy our columns. To tell us to change our style might mean losing readers even more. It is ridiculous, but I will keep at it, complain when it happens and then publish the full piece here. That’s the best I can do. Or else I might switch to writing about, oh I dunno, tennis?
(By the way, I can’t find Zainah’s column at the Star website at all. The link I’ve given you is the full version of her column, not the very truncated one that the Star published.)
Anyway here is my full column as submitted to help you compare with what you read in the paper: