(Penang, Friday): I have decided not to proceed with my official complaint against Bernama for three grounds of infringing its statutory charter "to seek for and present complete, objective and impartial news or news material on any matter of public and national interests within and outside Malaysia" under the Bernama Act 1967, namely:
I must say that after these three journalistic lapses, I was pleasantly surprised at Bernama’s attempt to make amends by reporting on IMF’s Interim World Economic Outlook released in Washington on Dec. 19, which was carried by the electronic media yesterday and the printed media today.
I had questioned Bernama several times why it had failed to report on the IMF’s Interim World Economic Outlook which was released on Dec. 19, especially the sharp difference between its forecast of 2.5 per cent economic growth for Malaysia this year as compared to the revised forecast of the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his second 1998 budget of 5th December 1997 of 4-5 per cent economic growth for this year.
Bernama should not only diligently and conscientiously discharge its statutory charter to present complete, objective and impartial news material of public and national interests, it should also provide Malaysians with the views of Malaysians of all sections, especially the government, as to which forecast is more correct - the IMF’s forecast of 2.5 per cent growth or Anwar’s forecast of 4-5 per cent.
In reporting on the IMF Interim World Economic Outlook released in Washington on Dec. 19 yesterday, i.e. within 20 days of its first publication, Bernama has improved considerably, as it took six months to report on the IMF 1997 Annual Report and more than one month to report on the IMF Report on "International Capital Markets".
I hope that my strictures on Bernama in the past week has served as a wake-up call for Bernama to buck-up and be a national news agency and not a national old news agency, and that henceforth, all IMF and other international reports which are relevant to Malaysia and which are placed on the Internet would be reported by Bernama on the very same day itself - in keeping with Malaysia’s ambition to be in the very forefront of the information technology revolution.
Bernama has a special responsibility in reporting the latest news which concerns Malaysia, regardless of geography or time for two reasons:
Firstly, Malaysia suffers from a serious problem of information deficit (ID), which is even more serious than the currents accounts deficit (CAD), as the failure to resolve the problem of information deficit is one important reason why confidence had not been restored despite Malaysia entering the seventh month of the economic crisis. Bernama must play an important role to resolve this information deficit, where Malaysians have ceased to believe in the local mass media, whether printed or electronic, preferring to believe the foreign press, even though they may be wrong or superficial.
Secondly, to prevent the emergence of the new disparity between the information-rich and the information-poor in Malaysia. We should forestall the development of a situation where the majority of Malaysians who are not hooked to the Internet are disadvantaged in terms of information whereas the small minority of Internet-connected Malaysians can have access to the latest news and developments all over the world at the click of the mouse. Information is power at any stage of human civilisation, but it is even more so in the information society and it is important that information should be democratised by making it accessible to all at the first available opportunity. The democratisation of information by reporting the latest and most complete, objective and impartial news is therefore one of Bernama’s most important duties to the Malaysian society.
I have nothing against anyone in Bernama and if Bernama is prepared to make amends for its mistakes and to diligently and conscientiously discharge its statutory charter to the national news agency for Malaysians, I am prepared to let the recent controversy rest. I have therefore decided not to proceed with my official complaint against Bernama since it is trying to make amends.