Review of media censorship a major step forward

CC Liew
The Malaysian Insider
Aug 19, 2011

AUG 19 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently announced that the government would review its media censorship policy. This move undeniably constitutes a major step forward for the country and would effectively remove the shackles some civil servants ignorant of present day realities have imposed on the media.

Najib’s announcement also shows that he has come to recognise the on-going changes taking place in the county’s media landscape.

Even though this is no longer a novel idea, yet many of our civil servants appear to be indifferent to this important message: While you can audit the printed page of the newspaper, a reader only needs to push a few buttons to read completely unedited reports in the electronic version. While you can block a news report from appearing on the print media, there is no way you can stop bloggers writing their stuff online.

Sometimes, the censorship criteria themselves are dubious and incomprehensible. Magazines publishing bare breast pictures of aboriginal women are torn and even classics by master painters would not escape the fate of their works published in upscale magazines being blacked out.

Living in a multicultural society, sure enough we cannot do things indiscreetly and some forms of restrictions are indeed essential. That said, threats of censorship from politicians and public servants would only generate some undesirable effects.

The criteria as to what should be reported and what should not should go back to the media operators, who would make the decisions and bear all the responsibilities and consequences for their lapses and misjudgements, if any. We already have more than enough laws governing the media anyway.

Although the prime minister’s promise to review media censorship does not translate into amendments to the existing laws and policies, yet it is a remarkable step ahead. Going forward, other laws meant to pin down the media should also come under the microscope.

The media landscape has altered. Newspapers and government-sponsored electronic media can no longer dictate public consensus. With elevated education standards and enhanced civic awareness, Malaysians have learned to distinguish what is right and what is wrong while the Internet offers the public a much more convenient and ready source of information.

Online information could sometimes be misguiding or even harmful by virtue that rumours, slanders and poison letters could spread unrestricted in the cyberspace.

However, reputable media organisations and respectable journalists will continue to exercise a very high degree of professionalism and self-discipline to see that what they pen will not cause damage to our society. The mode of communication could have changed, yet the standards for genuine, accurate, unbiased and balanced news reports remain the same.

In the enormous market teeming with all kinds of information and ideas, it is imperative that the media be allowed to execute their professional obligations without fear and favour.

We are ready to face the consequences for lapses owing to our oversight, but any verdict and any form of punishment handed down to us must be carried out in accordance with the law, not dictated by a handful of powerful people

Only a media operator that boasts integrity can be sustainable. Media resorting to distorted, fraudulent and baseless accusations, or adopting illegal or morally unacceptable means will be exposed, be it individual bloggers or multinational corporations in the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Scrap the various laws meant to put a curb on media operation, please! Like any other professionals, let the journalists — renowned writers with an established media organisation or little-known online bloggers alike — be governed under the same general law. And let the reading public determine whether we should prosper or decline.

Let the courts, not certain politicians or civil servants, pass down a verdict on our doings or misdoings. —

  1. #1 by Winston on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 1:28 pm

    Don’t we know this government well enough?
    If it’s too good to be true, it definitely is!

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 2:28 pm

    Ya lor, dis is as good as d SUN RISES fr d WEST, syiok diri 1
    Which is possible according 2 Islam in d End Times, b4 Day of Judgement

  3. #3 by dagen on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 2:37 pm

    Wot? I didnt read the news. So I hv no details. But I would not trust jib’s “W” tongue.

    He spoke of reviewing media censorship. But really, that could mean anything. Look, he said nothing about relaxing censorship did he? So there you go. And didnt umno just a couple of days ago declared the need for umno to control the online media? Now put two and two together what do you see? Relaxation of the media? or yet more control? It will be the latter, and I bet my last sperm on this one.

    Soon we can expect to see umno band of online troopers (umno.con yes you got it right it is dot con with an “n” and not “m”) spewing all sorts of online nonsense.

  4. #4 by DAP man on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 3:33 pm

    Najib can say what he likes. No body in the government listen to him. The DPM and the civil service will show him their middle finger.
    Just watch how The Star is being demonized.

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 6:05 pm

    ///Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently announced that the government would review its media censorship policy.///

    It is easy said than done. I for one will not believe Najib’s word. Hope he is not using “sweet talk” to fish votes.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Friday, 19 August 2011 - 11:41 pm

    Najib said will do this ..will do that..all the time but not once he kept his word.
    I think Najib suffers from serious split personality.

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