There must be improvement in the quality of Parliamentary reporting by the mass media if Parliament is to play a more meaningful role in national affairs

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, speaking at the Barisan Nasional Backbenchersí Club dinner on Tuesday night, had praised Members of Parliament for their high quality debate in Parliament, particularly on the cyberbills.

There is an urgent need not only to raise the quality of debate in Parliament, but also to improve on the quality of Parliamentary reporting by the mass media if Parliament is to play a more meaningful role in national affairs.

Yesterday, the Dewan Rakyat spent six hours to debate two cyberbills, namely the Telemedicine Bill and the Copyright Amendment Bill. However, one national daily only reported seven paragraphs of the six-hour debate on the two cyberbills, which is most scandalous - showing not only contempt for Parliament but total lack of understanding of those responsible in the national daily about the important role and place of Parliament in Malaysia.

The importance both Parliament and the government have given to the debate on the first batch of cyberbills, in organising the historic and unprecedented Parliamentary cyberbill forum as well as devoting six days so far to debate the cyberbills, have not been reflected in press reporting of the Parliamentary proceedings - which should have been regarded by the mass media as an excellent occasion to raise national consciousness on the importance and advent of Information Technology.

I believe one reason why the mass media has not risen to the occasion with regard to reporting on Parliamentary debates on the cyberbills is because there are many holding responsible positions in the mass media organisations who have not realised the national importance of IT and the critical role which must be played by the mass media in creating national IT awareness and consciousness among the people.

The Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding announced yesterday that heads of departments from his Ministry would soon be required to take computer lessons as part of efforts to cure the "technophobia" among adults over 35 years old. I commend the Minister for a most commendable initiative in grappling with a very real problem. His plan should become an important strategy of the National IT Agenda to spread computer-literacy and IT-fluency among Malaysians holding responsible positions in various sectors of our society.

I would call for a national campaign to expand this plan announced by Law Hieng Ding, requiring not only heads of departments in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment to take computer lessons, but heads of departments of all Ministries, all Members of Parliament and all editors, sub-editors and reporters of mass media organisations to take lessons in computer and IT-literacy to become models as to how those above 35 years can overcome "technophobia" to become computer-literate and IT-fluent.

There is nothing more frustrating in the debates on the cyberbills than to find not only MPs but also reporters who cannot follow the parliamentary debates because of their lack of IT-literacy and fluency!


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong