I refer to the malaysiakini report Utusan-NSTP merger inches closer.
Even if the government has a good intention in exerting direct control on the media, this monopoly will not be healthy in the long run. A free media is in fact, to the advantage of the ruling government. It provides valuable feedback and gives voices from the ground.
By exerting a monopoly control over the media, what is reported may not reflect the views of the people and may result in a leadership that is detached from the people. Leaders cannot just rely on their immediate circle of advisers and friends to give feedback because these people may not want or dare to speak the truth.
Most leaders, after all, like to be flattered and not criticised.
An independent press is also a watchdog against any wrongdoing of local authorities and government agencies, against any deviation of policies, against corruption and even against any wrongdoing in the private sector. It is the eyes, ears and voice of the masses.
Media are often owned by individuals or organisations who may want to slant the news and opinions in certain way for either self interests, political advantage or both. This is exactly the why there shouldn't be a monopoly over media ownership.
The presence of rival media groups will act as a check and balance in preventing the 'spinning' of news stories and the slanting of opinions. The country needs more media controlled by different players which will in turn hopefully bring about a greater degree of press freedom.
This will encourage frank debate and prevent a lot of misdeeds and abuses from being swept under the carpet. In developed countries, the press is often regarded as the fourth branch of government, after the legislative, executive and judiciary.
In this context, I hope that tycoon Tiong Hiew King will sell one or two of his Chinese-language papers as he currently has a monopoly over the Chinese press. The proposed merger between the New Straits Times Press Group and Utusan Group must also be stopped.
Legislation should be drafted so as to limit the control of an individual or a group in a media group to be no more than 20 percent.
Malaysia is now much open than before thanks to our present prime minister, but I hope he can further liberalise control of the media. It is through this that we can aspire to be in the ranks of the developed countries.