“LOCAL media must be strengthened if we wish to uphold press freedom” (Sunday Star, July 14) is a sound and necessary call. Simply put, press freedom serves as a necessary check and balance in our thriving democracy. Hence, “freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy”, noted renowned US journalist Walter Cronkite.
Media freedom serves as an essential safeguard in pushing for stronger transparency and accountability from our public agencies, including government departments, the judiciary and Parliament.
Last year’s historic change in government reflected the majority of Malaysians’ desire for urgent changes in greater accountability and transparency. Hence, it is somewhat reassuring to learn that Malaysia’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index improved 22 places to 123 out of 180 countries this year.
It is pertinent to note that Malaysia is better placed on the index than our neighbours such as the Philippines (134th), Thailand (136th), Cambodia (143rd) and Singapore (151st).
Arguably, our press freedom ranking would further improve should the government see fit to reform punitive, restrictive laws such as the Sedition Act. It is worth remembering that a greater level of freedom and better democratic practices do impact favourably on the economy and equitable social nation building.
A greater level of public interest in journalism and in confronting fake news, propaganda and censorship offers a fuller and more balanced range of viewpoints. Public interest media should be about placing the rakyat’s interests at the top of the agenda.
SZE LOONG STEVE NGEOW
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