07 April, 2009

PM Najib supports a freer media ?

Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday called for the country's media to be allowed to report "without fear of consequence".

He said he would encourage a new national debate that would promote transparency and accountability.

"I firmly believe that there is a vital place in that dialogue for a vibrant, free and informed media," the premier said.

"If we are truly to build a democracy that is responsive to the needs of all the people, we need a media - both old and new - that is empowered to responsibly report what they see, without fear of consequence," he added.

However, he did not float any changes to the publishing licensing system which allows the government to shut down media at will and is the main tool in forcing them to toe the line.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Malaysia 132 out of 173 on its worldwide press freedom index, and says the mainstream media are "often compelled to ignore or to play down the many events organised by the opposition."

Najib also urged the media to "move beyond those who offer the journalism of conspiracy theory and rumour" and to halt personal attacks against national leaders.

"I've endured my fair share of these from some quarters of the media," Najib said of the opposition's attempt to link him to the sensational 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman, whose body was blown up with military-grade explosives.

"But I also know that the personal slurs and false accusations levelled against national leaders are deeply damaging to our nation's political discourse and international reputation."

In his first act as premier, Najib in his maiden speech revoked a controversial ban on two opposition newspapers and announced the release of 13 people held under security laws that allow for detention without trial.


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