In Malaysia, the reality is that the mass media sector is battered, bruised and directionless to practice any freedom
The mass media has been singled out as an important component in the age of reforms and accountability under the Pakatan Harapan federal government as the nation relishes the prospects of a better Malaysia.
Already, there have been assurances that the media will be encouraged to practice their “media freedom” entitlement as part of the fourth estate in upholding the democratic institutions in the country.
But in Malaysia, the reality is that the mass media sector is battered, bruised and directionless to practice any freedom.
Despite commitments from investors, the ability to sustain any media operation is at best tedious.
Every single notable media publisher is now a loss-making enterprise.
Media freedom globally is actually being advocated and embraced as well as expanded to touch the lives of billions.
Who can ignore such a noble value and freedom? Do it at one’s own peril!
Perhaps, the previous Barisan Nasional government may have underestimated freedom but with the rise of technology and connectivity, it is virtually impossible to curtail it – so much so that the overwhelming might of such freedoms have given birth to the adage of fake news infecting the spectrum of the social media.
Besides fake news, the mainstream media the world over have to deal with the migration onto digital platforms, meaning the clutching of newspapers have being replaced with pocket–sized connected gadgets from smart phones to tablets.
But at the same time, revenue streams for digital platforms are slow in responding to such migration because they too have their own in-house electronic platforms to showcase their products and services.
So who needs newspapers or online portals to reach out to the masses when one can viral products and services via Twitter, Facebook or Whats app applications?
Better still, one can distract consumers with fake news or spun–up versions.
With such challenges, it is a natural process for the media sector in Malaysia to be in a state of dire straits – with possible more job losses looming while there is stagnation in the creation of new jobs.
And it has happened under a general climate of a sluggish economy where despite figures showing a gross domestic growth (GDP) of 5%, it is quite clear that the previous government had borrowed to propel growth.
It has come at the expense of a huge public deficit and an unhealthy private household debt which when subtracted from GDP growth; it only shows a 1% to 2% growth of the real economy.
Yet in such a climate, investors are urged to pour in funds into the media sector when a due diligence check would reveal that returns are hard to obtain.
And now, those leaders who had contributed to the rapid decline of the media line, is ironically clamoring for media freedom without realizing that they had triggered the downslide of its standing in society in the first place.
Imagine what would happen if US President Donald J Trump decides to own a media enterprise after branding its practitioners as perpetuating fake news.
It is no different in Malaysia where the present set of leaders have condemned the media for publishing unsavory accounts in the past and some have gone on to sue the media on a serial basis.
And now they turned around and advocated media freedom. They urged the media to stop “ampu” (appeasing) and to be a critical force.
When goes around comes around as the saying goes.
So, it is left in the same hands of those who ridiculed the media to salvage the industry; there is no other way because without governmental attention and intervention, more jobs would be lost.
Yes, it is true that some media practitioners had propagated silly accounts, but why punish the entire sector when at fault are only a handful of “devils.”
There is just this one humble suggestion – bring back integrity, competency and experience into the industry and reward hard working journalists for their commitment to press freedom – that is the only way forward.
Secondly, censor journalists who acted against press freedom by ridiculing their own; by plagiarising, by obstructing the career paths of quality journalists, and against those who outright cheated.
In other words to nip fake news, go after the fake journalists.
Meanwhile, a clarion call goes out to the discerning public to support journalism by supporting those who are sincere about reporting without fear or favour.