Information in restricted public space


Perhaps the most decisive baffle between Malaysia's two coalitions is being fought in the information arena, and not in by-elections or in parliament. As in most countries, ownership of the mass media affects the level of press freedom greatly. But when draconian laws are also in place strangling information flow, as in Malaysia, then we have a serious problem. However, necessity is the mother of invention.

ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL pillars of any modern democracy is a free mass media. It is through transparent and responsible reporting by independent journalists that the public is provided with unbiased information and can form opinions based on it. In a healthy political environment, ideas flow freely and a variety of alternatives are available for public consumption.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Malaysia. Freedom House's 2010 Freedom of the Press world ranking exercise places Malaysia at 142nd out of 196 countries surveyed, which puts us in the world's bottom 30% of countries in the area of press freedom. Neighbours like Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor and Thailand are ahead of us.

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