What can you do? Suppose you are a nation attempting to become a liberal democracy. You are trying to overcome years of corruption and injustice by introducing a rule of law, independent judges, democratically elected secular government despite being the world's largest Islamic state, and so forth.
So you insist in your constitution on sensible legal principles like not retrospectively legislating. You insist on allowing the processes of law to proceed unhindered by the head of state or others of the two other arms of government. And what happens?
Your supposedly liberal neighbour's media pundits attack your president, your laws, your judges and your legal system for... wait for it... not interfering with the ordinary processes of law because the accused is a pretty Australian female. And because the Nine Network, Australia's largest media outlet, has decided to make a cause celebre
out of this.
Radio 2GB allows its right wing commentator Malcolm Elliot to call the previous president of Indonesia a "midget"
. Never mind that Megawati introduced more liberalisation to Indonesia than anyone else. Never mind that as a head of state she is due at least some
deference. It seems ordinary rules of decency don't apply to the radical right, when they know they are right (read: when they are reinforcing the racist attitudes of the ignorant).
When the Bali bombers were tried, they got tried under a retrospective law against terrorism. This was, quite rightly, overturned by the Indonesian High Court. It is against all principles of law to introduce a law and try people who were not bound by it when they acted. The pundits here, though, attacked Indonesian courts for failing to protect, well, us. They acted as though the world owed them protection... which is odd, because I always connected right wing political ideas with self-reliance and responsibility.
When folk say to me that Australia is racist, I used to point out that we had a tradition of welcoming diversity, yadda yadda. I think, though, that Australia, as a nation, is more racist than otherwise. I don't know why this should surprise me. People
are racist if they aren't taught not to be. But I am becoming increasingly sad for my nation. It is not, I think, a place where reasoned and unprejudiced discussion or society will flourish.
What to do? I would strongly recommend to any nascent liberal democracy that you tightly rein in the media. Use judicial and parliamentary processes to expose the bad, and don't expect that the media will ever
do this in a sensible manner. And more than anything else, make it illegal for anyone to hold more than two outlets of mass media. If one cannot control the biases of the owners, at least ensure that there are a number of owners.
Oh, and legislate so that libel laws favour the individual, not corporations or governments. In the long term, it will help keep your society healthy. Look at Australia and the United States as a moral lesson, and learn from their errors. And good luck.