(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The removal of two top newspaper editors, namely Datuk Johan Jaaffar last Tuesday as Utusan Melayu Group and Datuk Ahmad Nazri Abdullah as News Straits Times Group Editor-in-Chief yesterday, are further signs of a possible crackdown against an already very limited press freedom in Malaysia.
Both Johan Jaafar and Nazri Abdullah are not great champions of press freedom or advocates of a responsible, fair and critical press, but it is clear that their forced resignations is because they had tried to promote greater space for independent, investigative and critical journalism within a very conscribed environment they operate under.
For this reason, all Malaysians who want to see greater democratisation and a move towards greater rather than more limited press freedom must deplore these developments in the Malaysian mass media.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Malaysians may develop an inferiority complex if the local media persists in publishing negative reports on the country. He feared that the trend, if prevalent, would undermine long-standing efforts to strengthen the character of Malaysians and be counter-productive to national development and the mental well-being of the people.
I am sure most Malaysians are confounded by Mahathirís latest thoughts. What are these negative reports that Mahathir is talking about? Is it about rats running in broad daylight at the RM9 billion Kuala Lumpur International Airport, billed as the "airport of the next century"?
I agree that reports which are baseless are most irresponsible, but the best way to deal with them is to expose such baseless and irresponsible journalism rather than to impose press censorship.
Mahathir is getting the wrong end of the stick in trying to resolve the problem of what he called "negative reports" like for instance the KLIA opening with some thousand-odd rats at the airport.
This is to develop a culture of excellence, where Malaysians can show the world that "Malaysia Boleh" rather than "Malaysia Tidak Boleh", from the smallest to the biggest things, whether it be smooth operations of a hi-tech international airport or smooth provision of basic utilities, like water and power.