Najib wants facts, not rumours in reporting

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — A victim of conspiracy theories, rumours and innuendoes, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tonight asked for fairness and respect in reporting while calling for “a new national conversation that engages all Malaysians”.

The new prime minister also stated his support for a “vibrant, free and informed media” which he underlined with his decision to lift the suspension of opposition newspapers Harakah and Suara Keadilan.

“I believe we can move beyond those who offer the journalism of conspiracy theory and rumour,” Najib said at the Malaysian Press Institute’s Malam Wartawan (Journalists’ Night) here tonight.

He had been linked to the gruesome 2006 murder of Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu and allegations of corruption in defence deals by the opposition. Two elite policemen, who have once escorted Najib, will know their fate over her murder this Thursday.

“I’ve endured my fair share of these from some quarters of the media. I will always stand up and be accountable for the decisions I make as your prime minister,” he said.

The prime minister said that people want a change in the tone of the political debate, saying the politics of accusation and rumour have trampled a political dialogue founded on respect and fairness.

“I want a dialogue that is built on respect and fairness, not personal attacks,” he told the audience comprising senior journalists from the print and electronic media.

“I call on all parties, all political leaders and all people who want to engage in a new national conversation about the future of our nation — including the media — to do so in a way that respects opinions of others; that values discussion and discourse; and that recognises that opponents need not be enemies, that differences of opinion do not come from malicious motives, but from a deep and abiding concern for the future of Malaysia.”

Najib pointed out it was trying times for the country as well as other countries but he believed that Malaysia had a remarkable opportunity to build “One Malaysia” with the new leadership.

“Malaysia needs a comprehensive economic model that positions us for the long-term. But, we also need a national consensus around how that and the other important policy debates of our time must be joined.

“A vibrant political and public dialogue is the best way forward for our country; the times demand it and the people expect it.”

He gave an olive branch to the online media that has been seen to be critical of him, saying the country needed a media, both old and new, empowered “to responsibly report what they see, without fear of consequence, and to hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve.”

“It is no secret that I believe the new media plays an important role in our political and civic future. But I want — and I will encourage — a debate that takes place across all media, across all parts of our country,” Najib said.

Malaysia’s sixth prime minister said the media should focus on the most pressing needs of the country, adding, “I hope that such colourful reporting will be consigned to history. It too often presents a world that bears no resemblance to reality and only serves to damage the public discourse we truly need.”