Protecting the Rights of Sarawak Indigenous Groups through Citizens Media
In terms of broadcasting, all stations in Sarawak are either under the Information Ministry or commercial broadcasters, leaving no room for community media. Strong laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Official Secrets Act prevent the media from being independent and plural. Communities that lack resources or political connections cannot have their own newspaper or radio station. As a result, there are no community media in any format that exist to support indigenous communities and individuals. Newspapers in Sarawak seldom report on controversies concerning corporations and government, which together control the state's natural resources. Issues raised by indigenous communities are not heard through the mainstream media. In particular, the struggles over land rights, land use and preservation of cultural rights, the impending effects of climate change and other environmentally sensitive activities are among the issues that need more public visibility and attention. A strong presence of the state also disadvantages the communities in terms of dealing with institutions like security and judiciary. Hence when the people raise their issues, they are seen as anti-government and are not given spaces in the mainstream media. It is important that the voices of marginalized people be expanded to create greater diversity in Sarawak's media. Opportunities must be increased so that the people in the project area can become better informed and more involved in decision making affecting their own communities. Communities need to be empowered to use communications as a way of protection and preserving their cultural, social and political rights. Through this project, marginalized indigenous people from different districts in south Sarawak will produce and manage their own information. Their news will be distributed by both old and new media ? sometimes published in local newsletters, issued via press releases, circulated as audio programmes or on CD, and through the Internet on various web pages and weblogs.