Media Freedom Mirrors the Country’s Democracy

The media is a major medium in communication and in ensuring the success of national agendas, particularly in confronting the challenges of globalization. It is well known that the media plays a big role in the formation, development and stability of a country, including the social, economic and political aspects. People around the world rely heavily on media to get information. Due to this reliance, the media is seen as a major supplier of information to the public with promptness and transparency. The media does not only act within the scope of dissemination of information but also plays the key role in informing, educating and motivating the people towards the development as planned by the government.

However, transparency of the media in conveying information begins to be questioned by society today. This situation occurs when people see the media as tools and major weapons for some parties, particularly political parties in spreading their agendas regardless of the authenticity of the supposed role played by the media. Without exception, the media also serves as an effective platform to ensure that the interests of some parties are maintained. Thus, the question to be answered by all parties especially the media, is the extent of transparency in fulfilling the responsibilities towards the public.

If seen in Article 10 of the Constitution, it clearly outlines the freedom of speech. This is seen as parallel with the concept of democracy as practiced in this country which emphasizes some fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. But the question is, how far can this freedom be practiced without restrictions and interference from any politically influenced party? In the context of the media in Malaysia, the freedom to write, issue an opinion, to voice out and criticize is subject to Article 10 (2) in which, the parliament has been empowered to make certain restrictions on Article 10 for the purpose of safeguarding national security, protecting the interests of national security, maintaining relations with other countries, protecting the interests of morality and restrictions to protect the privileges of Parliament or Legislative Assembly. Theoretically, I see whatever contained in the constitution and made as system in this country as very beautiful and systematic, but from the point of practicality, I think a lot of things should be reviewed, including the freedom and integrity of the media in disseminating information to the public.

Frankly, I see that the country’s media is as if being governed by certain parties to protect their respective interests. Control of the media in disseminating information to the public is sometimes necessary, but if it is too controlled and oppressed, I fear, that the transparency and media freedom in carrying out its social responsibility will be affected. Various acts are made to control the freedom of media in Malaysia, including the Internal Security Act (ISA), Official Secrets Act (OSA), Sedition Act (SA), Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), the Broadcasting Act, the Issuance of Import Materials Act, BERNAMA Act and the Federal Constitution.

In a democracy system, the media is considered as the 'public watchdog' or observers to the public. Four key elements in this system is the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive (Government) and the mass media. All four of these elements should not be linked to each other. The media as 'public watchdog' should be able to report any issues relating to all these elements. But what that has happened is that the media seems to be bound by and drawn from the continued freedom to be transparent and fair in conveying information to the public.

In my view, democracy should not be pawned in the name of irresponsible media freedom. The media is the important agent of unity in eliminating conflicts as opposed to the values and attitudes of people of various races. The role of media as a tool for social interpretation and the mirror that reflects the problems, needs and aspirations of the people should be prioritized. Without honest feedback, it would obviously be difficult for the government to reflect itself.

Cooperation of all parties is crucial in ensuring transparency of media in reporting a certain issue so that the public are confident and have faith in the credibility of the media itself. Thus, I suggest to all parties, especially the media for them to restore their credibility as the community’s liaison agents. The media should play their role in a professional manner. All parties must be open to receive reports or media criticism about their inadequacies. The media should act wisely and freely without any influence and not bound by any party. Transparency of the media in disseminating information to the public is important because it reflects the policy of openness and transparency of a country.



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