Mainstream media urgently needs new philosophies

JD Lovrenciear

Modified 25 Mar 2008, 8:44 am

The largely unexpected turn of events arising from the recent elections and the post-elections period only further reaffirms the thinking of readers about the Malaysian media scape.

Some honest questions need to be raised, reflected upon and addressed in a learned manner if we are to see the survival of the media - especially the mainstream print and electronic media and the laws affecting them. This is the responsibility of not only those on-the-job, but also more importantly the media owners together with the law makers. And of particular crucial importance are the Malay medium mainstream media given our geographical demographics.

A continuing disregard for the harsh realities affecting the reputation of the mainstream media is not going to add any advantage especially to the government of the day as we have witnessed from the outcome of the recent elections.

As aptly stated by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the media world has been ‘turned upside down and inside out’ given the ‘rise of consolidation and deregulation’ (2006).

While the aim of this letter is not to give a lecture on the media - which the media is only all too familiar with - lawmakers and politicians need to pay particular attention to and learn to leave the job of journalism and its business to professionals.

The starting line is the expired need to re-look our media laws, namely the Printing Presses and Publishing Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Internal Security Act. While these Acts were introduced with good intentions and at a time of bygone urgencies, the continued use of them without any objective and impartial review has not served us well and never will anyway.

Today, we have seen on a first-hand basis how the media, despite its long years of walking a 'safe' path in reporting news owing to an innate fear of being hauled up and axed, has miserably failed to safeguard the interests of its political masters who own and or manipulate its existence.

Today we are all well aware of how the 'new' media namely the Internet and the mobile phone have driven an obvious wedge into the mainstream media's operating patronage and its many silly spins.

In the light of this new age media presence, its influence and growing credibility, the Malay medium newspapers, in particular, need to come to terms with their blind and patronising allegiance to the political corridors of power. If the lessons learnt in the recent 12th GE do not shake the blinkers off their current stance, the politicians who use these media can only be prepared for more disasters in the years ahead of the next poll.

In the wake of failings, politicians will claim that our media is free and that the media is the party to be blamed as its is exercising self-censorship. But journalists will confide away from the presence of their bosses that if they do not toe the line, the exit door awaits them.

In a nutshell, our mainstream media is merely for some to have a job to pay their bills and let us not kid ourselves on this underpinning truth..

It is time that the media - particularly the Malay print media and the television stations - recognise the revolutionising media scape and take pains to champion professional journalism and not continue to suffer under strong arm of political affiliations. And to facilitate this, it is about time that politicians stopped taking ownership stakes in mainstream media or dailies. Political parties should just stick with their own party organs.

Hopefully, as the nation remains focused on the path of Vision 2020, political leaders will wake up and accept the fact that a free media has all the ingredients to help the nation grow from various vantages.

For one, investors will appreciate the presence of a non-political media. The rakyat will be more receptive to facts presented andtherefore make healthy and informed conclusions. This, in turn, will enable our politicians to stay on their feet.

A free media will also mean that the fight against corruption and the government's pledge to eradicate any form of crony and corrupt practices will gain credibility and support.

And, most importantly, a media that is free from political affiliations or patronage and control will play a significant role in the urgent need to influence perceptions.

Hopefully, we Malaysians can see some significant changes in the philosophies of our media and their business direction. Otherwise, the media must only prepare for its own burial over time.

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