Media statement by MP for Kluang, Wong Shu Qi on 21 April 2021:
A comprehensive policy is needed to assist media industry to combat against disinformation and survive in the paradigm shift
The latest result of World Press Freedom released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has only confirmed what we had predicted last year. Perikatan Nasional is now taking the route that Najib has taken, a further sinking of our democracy in the coming days.
Malaysia has the biggest drop in ranking among all 180 countries and territories in terms of press freedom amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, Pakatan Harapan has improved our position from 145 in 2018 to 101 in 2020. Within two years, Malaysia’s position in World Press Freedom index improved 44 positions. Yet, the PN government has destroyed the effort and reverted us to the old ways just within a year.
Since PN took over the government following the infamous Sheraton move, it imposed heavy-handed methods to curb disinformation. It is undeniable that disinformation is harmful. It harms our public health and democracy during the pandemic. However, a blanket rule in turn hurts our media freedom when disinformation needs a credible media institution to counter.
PN has definitely found a wrong prescription that will only deteriorate the whole situation. As mentioned in the RSF report, our media practitioners have to protect themselves against the government’s offensive, “many journalists have had to censor themselves.” Self-censorship does not help the government to build a credible and trustable media institution in combatting disinformation. In contrast, it makes people more suspicious of the information provided by the media. In the end, public may rather resort to untested source that is closer to them.
Media self-censorship will only help PN to stay in a bubble world as if the people do not talk bad about their poor governance in the media sphere. Yet, netizens go straight to social media to viral all kinds of issues. From #AntaraDuaDarjat, #TamatDarurat to #KerajaanGagal, the hashtag signals the weak position and poor governance of PN.
To have a sustainable democracy, we need a strong media institution.
Reputable media institution will help government in combating fake news and disinformation amidst the current public health crisis. More importantly, it will help a government with good governance to gain trust. Trustworthiness will not be earned through oppression.
PN government should reverse its oppressive policies against media institutions now. More importantly, craft a better policy to assist our media industry to cope with the economic crisis and media paradigm shift. The survival of reputable media is as important as the survival of our democracy.