(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Singapore Straits Times (SST) yesterday reported that the Malaysian authorities have given its blessings to an all-news TV channel to present Malaysia's case to counter negative reporting on the country by the foreign media.
The SST quoted Malaysian sources as saying that the new TV news channel to present Malaysia's case at home, the region and the world, is to correct what has been described as the "lop-sided and unfair" coverage of economic developments and policies by international media organisations such as CNBC, CNN and BBC.
"The other involves suing journalists for defamation and hitting publishers where it hurts -- the pocket.
"It is unclear who are the financiers behind the project but checks by The Straits Times indicate that Tan Sri Noordin Sopiee, the chairman of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) and member of the powerful National Economic Action Council, has a pivotal role."
The latest issue of The Edge carries a front-page article under the heading "Malaysia’s own ‘CNBC’?" reported that a new player is expected to venture into the media business in a big way with both electronic broadcast and print media in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
The National Economic Action Council should explain whether it is behind the concept and implementation of the new all-news TV channel - and whether this is an admission of the failure of the Information Ministry to deal with the new challenges of information in the world of IT.
It is a most retrograde development that at a time when Malaysians should be encouraged to embrace the challenges of IT, the government is doing the opposite as illustrated by the latest Education Ministry decision to stop subscriptions of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, and International Herald Tribune.
In a Jan 9 circular to all state education directors, Education Director-General Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Abdullah said the Government decided to stop buying the three foreign publications because they had been overzealous in their criticism of the country.
"These publications have clearly shown they have no sympathy towards Malaysia and therefore it is not proper for us to support and subscribe to these magazines and newspaper," he said.
Going by this criteria, are all schools, colleges, universities, government departments and libraries - whether of educational institutions, public or even private ones - to boycott all foreign media, whether newspapers or magazines, and shut Malaysia off from the world - imposing an equivalent of "capital controls" in the form of "information controls".
At a time when the government is talking about "smart schools", "smart partnerships" and "smart cards", it is still wedded to the very unsmart way of meeting the challenges of IT.
The government should realise that this is the recipe for the aggravation
rather than the resolution of the crisis of public credibility of institutions
The government proposal to have its own CNBC is one smart reaction provided the new all-news television channel can compete with CNBC, CNN or BBC and gain the confidence of Malaysians without new forms of "information controls".
I would in fact go one step further and call on the government fully embrace the challenges of IT by allowing the Opposition parties and NGOs to operate a television channel in keeping with Malaysia’s profession to become an information/knowlege society.