The credibility problem in Malaysia is getting from bad to worse when the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech on ethics and democracy could be blacked out by the mainstream media in the country

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): One reason for the serious problem of information deficit in Malaysia creating the grave problem of credibility and confidence crisis in the government is the increasing restriction in the Malaysian mass media against a free play of ideas and views.

Malaysians know that views critical of the establishment, regardless of how right or pertinent to solve the problems of the people and country, cannot find space in the local mass media, whether printed or electronic, causing widespread distrust about the credibility of the local press.

Just as in the economic development process, the most important thing is not know-how but know-who, in the local mass media the most important criteria for coverage is not say-what but say-who!

As a result, the Opposition, the NGOs and critical segments of the civil society are shut out from local mass media, creating a debate of the deaf in the country.

This reminds me of a very insightful remark by the Managing Director of the international Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus during his November tour of South east Asia, where he discovered that "what is missing is not chiefly money". He observed that the something that was missing was the ability or readiness of the countries concerned to "sit down…and speak frankly" about their true macro-economic problems.

At a time when the country is trying to grapple with the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, where restoration of confidence should be the paramount concern of all policy-makers, one would have thought that utmost priority would have been given to resolve the problem of the information deficit by restoring the credibility of the local mass media in the country.

However, the credibility problem in Malaysia is getting from bad to worse when the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, about the economic crisis, reforms, ethics, democracy and press freedom could be blacked out by the mainstream mass media in the country and Malaysians have to read about it in the foreign press.

Today’s Hong Kong Standard under the banner heading "Anwar calls for end to region's bad habits - Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim vows his country will make reforms" carried the following report:

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald under the heading "Mahathir's heir apparent attacks corruption" by Herald correspondent, Craig Skehan, filed the following report:

While it is admitted that the foreign mass media have their slants and biases, the important question is why Malaysians should read about Anwar’s speech on ethics, democracy and greater media freedom only in the foreign media or Internet, with these remarks blacked out by the mainstream local mass media?


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