Brown: Ensure media freedom in Malaysia

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 24 Aug 2019

Guest speaker: Brown sharing her views.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must protect independent voices ready to expose, question and hold accountable the government on behalf of the public, says Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown.

The founder of the whistleblower portal said there must be some form of structure to ensure media freedom in Malaysia.

“Because if you stop shouldering this responsibility and the power to threaten with shame and exposure, you will soon encounter corruption, exploitation and totalitarianism similar to the situation which had taken hold of Malaysia prior to the 14th General Election,” she said when delivering her talk at the inaugural Malaysian Media Award Conference 2019 yesterday.

She said there was a need for public-funded media which puts public interest first.

“I believe the new Malaysian government must seize the hour and support public-funded media and free it from political interference,” she said.

With regard to state-funded media, Brown noted it had a duty to represent the interest of taxpayers regardless of the government in power.

Asked on her views of the level of transparency under the present government, Brown said there was much more freedom now for the people to voice their views.

“Everyone is talking a lot and it’s great to hear that people are complaining a lot, which they were not able to do before,” she said.

However, she reminded Malaysians to come out with constructive criticism and remain focused on what they would like the government to accomplish.

Meanwhile, The Edge publisher and chief executive officer Datuk Ho Kay Tat said the media played a crucial role in society.

“Journalists must perform the public service as they have a role to play as the fourth estate.

“However, we can only play that role if there is trust,” he said, adding that credibility was also key in news reporting.

He cited loss of trust among readers, availability of free online news and substantial losses in revenue to tech giants like Facebook and Google as reasons for a decline in revenue among local media firms.

He described the loss of advertisement revenue to the two foreign tech giants as a form of “digital colonialism”, which could be addressed through taxation.

He noted that local media companies had suffered losses of between 20% and 60% over the last five years, with shares losing some RM3.7bil.
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