alaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has outlined five cornerstones of what he believes are the most important criteria to be ‘adopted’ by local Malaysian journalists.

However, none of these five criteria concerns the freedom of the press, that is, the freedom given to journalists to write — well — freely!

Najib instructed journalists to maintain a professional attitude at all times, to be responsible and to give constructive views and criticisms.

He also said the media had to report on issues based on valid and accurate facts, not based on assumptions and rumors — and he was certainly trying to pull the journalistic world’s leg there - with regards to the issues raised on the heavily embattled 1MDB, and not to mention a few other issues raised by his opponents.

When Najib said media practitioners (sic) must report the news as actual facts, it was again clear that 1MDB was the issue.

He also spoke of ‘healthy’ reporting and the rejection of slanderous elements and the tendency to pit one individual against another, being racially inclined, or touching on sensitive issues such as religion.

For starters, it is unclear whether he was targeting journalists on these last issues he raised. These facets of journalism, after all, are elements found in blogs, social media and are barely touched in Malaysia’s local print media.

No news editors or commentaries will dare to discuss religious issues in Malaysia, or speak freely about sensitive issues and even racial issues. The PM was off-target, this time.

The Najib regime has a strong grip on pro-government media on television or in print. These media outlets mostly rubber stamp the government’s decisions.

The issue of “rubber-stamping” also surfaced recently after Malaysia’s Parliament speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia resigned due to this grouse, but later retracted his resignation after Najib said he would look into the matter.

The controlled papers, portals, news agencies do not have any ‘freedom’ in criticizing government decisions. The basic understanding is that they are the portals and papers or stations that are there to keep the government image neat, and clean.

Najib has given Malaysian journalists guidelines on how they should report. Here in 2013, he addresses a forum in Davos. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The question is, is the criteria issued by the PM addressed to the government controlled media?

These media never carry any criticism of government policies, which they see as good and positive all year round!

The pro-government media sees no problem with 1MDB, and they defend the views and comments of the political leaders on the issue. And this shows the lack of freedom that pervade government controlled media, blogs and news portals.

When we, the editors, ask our reporters to query analysts and economists across the world about the 1MDB, their comments are not favorable to the government. Not a single analyst, economists or observers (not even the brother of the PM it seems) sees the 1MDB in a favorable light.

The problem pinning down the press in Malaysia is the lack of freedom to express. Without this freedom, journalists are mere puppets. And as puppets, they will never be able to show decorum, be responsible and offer creative, constructive criticism.

As it stands, journalists can only share the embarrassment that occurs when decisions go wrong.

How do you expect to realize a universal dream of taking the country to greater heights, in this manner?

So far, the government controlled media, including the media responsible for the promotion of the much criticised and unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST), have failed to instill the spirit of ‘ILOVEGST’ in the hearts of the people!

Thus, it is to be wondered, how much of a role does Malaysia’s press play in “moulding the people’s minds so that they could have a better understanding of the government’s decisions and policies”?

The simple conclusion: the absolute control of the media is not working, not in our age, and it will be a constant failure if all the media are not freed from control.

Altogether, what the PM sees as irresponsible journalism, is only his view point, and this goes the same to what he calls ‘responsible’ journalism. It is only his perception.

Are the media in Malaysia subjected to the head of state’s perception of the work of journalists? Does this not suggest that journalists are not really free to write, criticise — fairly or not — the decisions made by the authorities?

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