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Sunday, October 01, 2006

You say you want a freer press?

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Most Malaysian's world view is formed by what they read in the print media or hear/see on the satellite news channels. Walski has always maintained that any media organization has it's own bias and/or agenda.

It goes without saying that the Malaysian mainstream media has a definite political leaning when it comes to framing the news for public consumption. Some may say that it leans a little bit too far, making the bias all too obvious. Subtlety is an art not quite yet mastered by the Malaysian media.

No doubt, getting to the truth takes a lot of reading, hearing and watching - you don't get the truth through one source alone.

Walski found the following series of YouTube snippets this morning, showing something we wouldn't dream of ever seeing on Malaysian TV - not anytime soon, anyway. It comes from Fox News, a news media organization well-known for having strong Right-wing bias in its reporting. If you thought CNN is biased, Fox News puts them to shame.

You might call it Bill Clinton vs. Fox News (as many have). It was allegedly an attempt by Fox News (and their Neo-Con supporters) to do some Clinton-bashing. As it turned out, things took a rather unexpected turn.
(YouTube videos and some thoughts in the full post)

Part 1 (of 3)

Part 2 (of 3)

Part 3 (of 3)

So what's the lesson here? To Walski, it underlines the importance of a free media. True knowledge on a given topic requires inputs from various points of view, before an individual can make an intelligent informed decision, or stand.

Putting things into the perspective, in the Malaysian context, is that freedom of the press (electronic or print) is needed. No if's, and's or but's.

But let's take a reality pill - Malaysia is definitely not ready for an open, truthful and free media. Not in the BBC or American sense, anyway. Not yet.

What's needed now is a media that dares to ask difficult questions, and dares to publish the difficult responses. Truth isn't always pretty, but to window-dress truth for the purposes of appropriate consumption is equally counter-productive.

Granted, the media seems a little more open these days. But it is a guarded openness, and an openness not fully supported by many in the Government. And at the end of the day, it is the Government that holds the reins on the media (through the Print and Press Act, among other pieces of legislature).

And that rein could be cut, in a heartbeat.

Progress, in some areas, is best acheived gradually. In Walski's view, this definitely holds true when it comes to press and media freedom. Politicians need to be weaned on increasing freedoms, and not hit full tsunami-force in the face (although, this does have some benefits). The people, too, need to be given a little time to face the fact that an open and free press has its pitfalls, and learn to live with them.

Walski's not being an apologist here, by the way. There is a definite need for a freer media and press - but Walski's point is how the Malaysian press and media gets to a more liberated environment (and not if it should).

And getting to that destination overnight is probably not the best path...