courtesy of malaysiakini. please do click on ‘read the rest of this entry’ to see many interesting charts.
(related link: PM to media: uphold the truth)
M’sians still ignorant of media freedom
Syed Jaymal Zahid
Sept 4, 08 4.46pm
News consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the media owners’ influence on the way news are being reported, an independent survey revealed today.
The survey, carried out jointly by media watchdog Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and opinion pollster Merdeka Centre, showed that 78 percent of those surveyed believed that media owners have “significant influence” over news.
The survey, which involved 1,203 randomly selected respondents aged 21 and above, was conducted by telephone from May 8 to 14.
“Thirty-nine percent identified the government, people or companies connected to the government as the owners of most media outlets,” Merdeka Centre research associate Leong Lai Ming told a press conference today.
“The survey also revealed that Malaysians were critically assessing the content of the local mainstream media, upon which the majority relied heavily as sources of information.”
According to the survey, only 35 percent of the respondents believed that the mainstream media were not reporting fairly.
Furthermore, only half of the respondents said the performance of the mainstream media according to six major indicators – ethical, variety of opinions included, variety of issues covered, objectivity, fairness and truthfulness – were met.
CIJ executive director V Gayathry, who was also at the press conference, said this reflected the poor confidence Malaysians have on the credibility of the mainstream media due to its close affiliation with the government.
For democracy to function properly, media freedom advocates like CIJ and others have often called for a clear separation between media organisations and the state.
“And media organisations must also learn to create their own code of conduct that is based on just and fair reporting and not place the burden of media reform totally on the government,” added Leong.
Govt or media responsible for media freedom?
Gayathry said the survey findings indicated that Malaysians do have mixed views on who is responsible in carrying out media reforms – some said it was the government, while others say it was the media organisations or the public.
In the survey, two-thirds had the impression that improving greater media independence was out of their hands, while 35 percent felt that the government played the most important role.
“Such sentiment matched even those from the Malaysian Bar, when during the Walk for Press Freedom event in June, its Human Rights Committee responded to (de facto) law minister Zaid Ibrahim by saying the state bears the primary burden of removing laws that have impinged freedom,” said the survey.
The Bar Council was then reacting to Zaid’s statement that it was part of the press’ responsibility to conduct reforms in industry.
Nevertheless, 30 percent of the respondents thought that it was the public itself that had the greater role to ensure that media independence exist in the country.
Little understanding on media freedom
The survey also found a lack of understanding among Malaysians regarding the concept of media freedom.
Despite having more than half the respondents agreeing that the media needs more independence, about half still believed that the government has the right to control media organisations.
Huge percentage of the respondents when asked why they thought the government should or should not have control over the media were not able to answer why they thought so.
“This is an issue, and this is why organisations like CIJ and other media rights groups must … educate the public on the issue,” stressed Leong.
The survey also revealed that the public has a very low recognition of the role of civil society groups when it comes to fighting for greater press freedom.
“This was particularly evident when the 2008 Memorandum on Media Freedom launched online on May 3 by three NGOs including CIJ only managed to garner 1,946 endorsees until now,” lamented the survey.
CIJ however was confident that the public was showing signs of progress when it came to inducing public awareness on the need for greater media freedom judging from the survey’s findings.
“Despite low level of recognition towards organisations working to improve media freedom, the public was open to the idea of media independence.
“This further showed that the stigma of equating supporting media independence to danger did not exist.
“Hence, it is in the interest of the public and the nation for civil society organisations such as CIJ to continue its work to further educate the public about media independence,” concluded the survey.