Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dr M tells mainstream media to shed own muzzles

Dr Mahathir said self-censorship deprived the government of a true assessment of the public view

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said self-censorship was so prevalent in the mainstream media that it painted the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) as restrictive.

The former premier then advised the country’s newspapers to occasionally take views opposite to the government instead of parroting the official line from the administration.

“The government sometimes gets lopsided views about what the public is thinking. [The media] think that they should self-censor.

“This gives the impression that it's the government who's restricting them,” the country’s longest-serving prime minister was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama today, at a forum on “Blogging Mindfully and Responsibly” here.

Malaysia’s print press is subject to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), which requires all newspapers and magazines to obtain an annually-renewed permit from the Home Ministry before they are allowed to publish print content.

Reporting in the print media can be punished under the “national security” clause in the PPPA.

Also, under the PPPA, inaccurate news is termed “false news” and is punishable with a one-year imprisonment.

Critics of the Act have described it as a sword hanging over the heads of publishers and editors, and exploited by the government to control dissent.

Earlier this year, reports that the government was planning to expand the purview of the Act to encapsulate online content — including the social media such as Facebook and Twitter — were met with loud protests from various quarters.

The Home Ministry subsequently denied it was planning to broaden the PPPA’s scope.

Dr Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister also saw the execution of the 1987 Ops Lalang, in which the printing permits of four newspapers — The Star, The Sunday Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh, and Watan — were revoked under the PPPA.

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