No ‘envelope’ journalism in Malaysia
|S Pathmawathy | October 30, 2008|
Malaysia does not practise ‘envelope’ journalism which is the norm in certain developing countries, claimed Information Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek today.
Speaking to reporters at the launch of World Development Information Day in Kuala Lumpur, the minister also said that absolute freedom of the press does not guarantee transparency or a dwindling of corruption.
“In countries that have press freedom, the people hope that the press will play the part of the ‘fourth estate’ in order to reduce corruption and promote good governance.
“But there are countries, where the press is granted unconditional freedom. However, this is not reflected in the level of corruption of the country. The press is free but corruption is still rampant,” he said.
In his keynote address earlier, Shabery said he was perplexed that although Malaysia has achieved “tremendous progress” in terms of income level, infrastructure facilities, investment opportunities and more, it was ranked far below in the world press freedom index.
“Malaysia has been undeservedly ranked as a country with little press freedom, very much below many other countries known to be aid-dependent and not even among the top 20 trading nations.
“This sometimes begs the question whether absolute or near absolute press freedom will bring about greater well-being for the people,” he noted.
“Just because we have curbs on sexually-explicit materials, are less tolerant about gay and lesbian rights or sensitive religious issues… we have been unfairly attacked as having an oppressive media environment.”
The minister said some counties which are ranked higher in the press freedom index may not weigh in equally with their corruption index.
Shabery refrained from providing examples of the supposedly corrupt countries but said it is a “well-known fact that some countries… practise ‘envelope’ journalism”.
“This shows that the connection between the free press and battle against corruption is not clear. It is not based on professionalism but on favouritism.
“The media which is supposed to keep watch on the government, turns out to be crooked and corrupt as they accept ‘envelopes’ from popular figures and in turn provide more coverage,” he explained.
The minister reiterated that such practices are not condoned by the government and the practice has not been heard of in this country.
Shabery also expressed hope that the proposed national media council will be established soon to monitor media activities and enable recourse against malicious reporting.
Asked whether the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) will be repealed, the minister said he would “like to see” less regulation but affirmed that he has no jurisdiction to decide on repeal of the law.
“Even in developed countries, although there is no need for a printing licence, they have a council to oversee the media to ensure that the media does not commit slander,” said Shabery.
He said the council is necessary to ensure the “do’s and don’ts” and that ethical reporting is adhered to in order to protect society.
“Given the far-reaching impact of the media we hope that only level-headed and responsible people will rum media organisations. We also hope that one day anyone can publish a newspaper without having to be subjected to many rules and regulation.
“Looking ahead the government takes the view that the media industry should expand in line with the nation’s progress… (where) people will have access to greater variety of sources of information and entertainment.
“However, one should be reminded that the business viability of such endeavours in a competitive environment depend very much on their content and presentation.
“We have already laid the foundations to open up the media industry but we need to open up at our own pace. But open up we will.”