February 19, 2014
In the latest ranking, Burundi (142), Ethiopia (143), Cambodia (144), Myanmar (145) and Bangladesh (146) have all topped us.
Therefore it was unsurprising that our Press Freedom Index (PFI) rating has dropped two rungs from 145 previously to 147 currently out of 180 countries as shown from the information released by Reporters Without Borders for this year.
This is certainly deplorable for a country that aspires to be a First World nation, especially when we have been touted as a ‘model democracy’ by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The placing of 147 out of 180 countries is more than three quarters down the list as 135 is the three quarter mark.
What is worse is that our ranking is even below that of Burundi (142), Ethiopia (143), Cambodia (144), Myanmar (145) and Bangladesh (146).
Certainly with this type of ranking, we cannot claim to be a ‘model democracy’ and to continue claiming so would be shameful and embarrassing.
However this drop in ranking is only to be expected due to the drama involving the weekly ‘The Heat’ last year.
It has to be noted that the best result was shown in the year 2006 with the ranking of 92 which was achieved under the premiership of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Although we still have opposition newsletters in the form of Suara Keadilan, The Rocket and Harakah, these are strictly opposition party newsletters and the public know what to expect from their content which is always critical of the government.
But what is amazing is that some mainstream papers seem to act like party newsletters by bad-mouthing the opposition on a regular basis. This is definitely unethical, unprofessional and unacceptable as the duty of the mainstream papers is to always adopt a neutral stance when reporting the news to the public.
Moreover these mainstream papers are read as bona fide newspapers and there is no indication whatsoever anywhere on these papers that they are the organs of such and such a political party.
As for the opposition’s newsletters, they have to put up with extremely too many conditions set by the Home Ministry despite the fact that they are clearly published by the opposition parties.
For Malaysia’s ranking to fall below that of Myanmar and Bangladesh is horrendous indeed as we are now approaching our 57th year of Independence.
Therefore PM Najib must take responsibility for the fall in the PFI.
What has happened to all his talk about ‘Transformation’ in the Government Transformation Programme (GTP)? Has the government transformed into an exemplary democratic government?
“It is thus meaningless to proclaim that Malaysia is the world’s best democracy if the citizens are prevented from obtaining news in a free and fair manner via the printed press,” said PAS Central Committee member and former Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Najib therefore has to show that Malaysia is the world’s best democracy by giving the opposition fair access to the mainstream press thereby enabling the citizens to make an informed decision at the ballot box.
The fall in the Press Freedom Index does not show that the government is favourable to the issue of press freedom, remarked the PAS man.
He also commented that the Home Ministry’s immediate revocation of FZ Daily’s printing permit was a shock to him just when the court has allowed the daily’s owners to continue with judicial review proceedings against the Home Ministry for the suspension of the said permit. This matter will certainly contribute to a further drop in the press freedom rankings.
Dzulkefly also slammed the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office which said that Malaysia’s media freedom is exemplary due to the existence of online news portals and political blogs that do not undergo censorship.
“Najib must know that the Press Freedom Index refers to the printed newspapers and electronic media like radio and television and not to the internet.
“The opposition should be given adequate space and air time in the newspapers and radio and television to reach out to the citizens at large before the Prime Minister can boast that Malaysia has media freedom,” added Dzulkefly.
His PAS colleague, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad commented that “citizens are kept in the dark so as to portray the opposition in bad light.”
From the above we can clearly see that press freedom in Malaysia is only one-sided, biased and weighs heavily against the opposition. Instead it is the opposition that has been freely attacked via the mainstream papers on a daily basis by its political nemesis.
Selena Tay is a DAP member and a FMT columnist.