I have written so many posts on Press freedom (or the need for it), that I have lost count and I would have problems retrieving my old articles.
Freedom of the press is the most important requisite for a successful democracy to function. It has been termed the 4th pillar of democracy since it can play the role of a watchdog and give feedback to those governing.
Although Malaysian politicians like the retired MM like to say that there is no absolute freedom, and that the press can be manupulated by the people who own the papers , it is still important for the government to do away with restrictive laws such as the Press and Printing Presses Act.
If there are no restrictive acts, then more people can start a newspapers, and readers will have a better choice to choose from. When readers have the choice to choose, even the owners of the papers would have to be careful to report the truth, otherwise, once people know that a particular paper is spinning stories , people would boycott that papers . So in that way, people’s power can keep a newspaper to be truthful in reporting, and that is exactly what happens in the West, even though once in a while, human error may result in genuine mistakes in reporting.
Recently a Chinese paper was hauled up to explain why it headlined the news that a Chief has resigned. Even though it was later denied by the chief, and the paper may have made a genuine mistake, an apology would have been sufficient to let readers know that it has no bad intention. It is also partially right, since even the Minister concerned admitted that certain officers including this chief is due to retire later this year.
I hope this issue can be solved amicably and no heads need to roll. If any action is taken to this paper, it would have done democracy an injustice. It is like a whistle blower who may have got the time and date wrong , but essentially what the whistle blower did was right.
That is why it is important to do away with restrictive acts. A press council like the one they have in Britain and which is known as Press Complaints Commission which consists of representatives from amjor newspapers themselves should be set up to let the newspapers self regulate. The commission has a published code of conduct known as Code of Practice and this code has resulted in a high standard of the English newspapers, as compared to the local ones here.
If the government is sincere to reform, then it must start with a free press, do away with the restrictive act. Otherwise, whatever reform would be like cosmetics, the ugly face is still below the layer of cosmetics applied.
pls revisit this article: