Honest journalism and better democracy — Tunku Zain Al-Abidin

Source: The Borneo Post Online

BY TUNKU ZAIN AL-ABIDIN

AT their best, you might assume that in a healthy democracy, the realms of journalism and civil society share the same goal. Both want to expand the space – whether in print, online, conference halls or on the streets – in which citizens can discuss the state of the country and debate the ideologies and policies that they believe will take the country forward.

At their worst, agents of both are compromised by undemocratic interests: even in countries regarded as established democracies, newspapers and so-called non-governmental organisations are seen as lobby groups under the thumb of certain political parties, corporations or trade unions. But at least this is mitigated by transparency in terms of ownership and funding, and more crucially, by competition in the media space. In dictatorships, these aspects are absent.

In Malaysia, the print media remains strongly regulated, but the space secured by the mass penetration of the Internet (and then specifically social media) as well as the more relaxed view towards civil society under Tun Abdullah Badawi (compared to the previous environment) has made permanent some avenues for the expression of alternative views. However, investigating certain topics or ‘insulting’ certain individuals are off-limits and can lead to the closure of your online portal or you being in jail. Read more

Don’t sound like the opposition, ex-Washington Post reporter tells Malaysian journalists

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Journalism professor John Dinges (right) speaking at the Cooler Lumpur Festival's ‘Journalism in Service of Democracy’ discussion in Kuala Lumpur, September 10, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Journalism professor John Dinges (right) speaking at the Cooler Lumpur Festival’s ‘Journalism in Service of Democracy’ discussion in Kuala Lumpur, September 10, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — While the independent media has the duty to hold those in power accountable, it must also refrain from acting as the voice of the opposition, a former journalist with The Washington Post advised Malaysian journalists.

John Dinges — an esteemed former correspondent with the US daily as well as with Time magazine who had spent most of his earlier days as a reporter in Latin America during its repressive period in the 70s and 80s — said impartial reporting is the hallmark of a genuinely independent media.

Journalists have to constantly remind themselves that they have a duty to the people, Dinges added, while cautioning them that a media that is seen as too close to the opposition risks losing credibility.

“Journalists have to be more careful about the accuracy and precision of their reporting because you know you’re being scrutinised and you need to be the ones that people can trust,” the former reporter told Malay Mail Online in a brief interview here yesterday.

“So if all the journalists do is identify with the opposition, and scream and holler to say we’re victims…if you raise your journalism to the level of rhetoric, you’ve become a political actor,” he added. Read more