Zahid: Media, internet freedoms being abused


(Malay Mail Online) – Media and internet freedoms are being abused by those with hidden agendas, Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed today.

He was responding to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s pledge last night to preserve internet freedom while backing the empowerment of journalists to hold government and corporations to account.

The home minister did not state whether he supported Najib’s views but said there are “news portals” who hide behind the media and internet freedoms to push agendas with complete disregard of journalistic ethics.

“What the prime minister emphasised on was the reporting methods in the new media, especially social media, which have no regard for journalistic ethics,” Zahid told reporters after opening the Film Censorship Board 60th anniversary celebrations.,

Zahid added that reporting ethics should be observed regardless of the medium used.

“Even there are different mediums be it conventional media or social media, ethics should be observed. Don’t use it to push agendas”.

Last night Najib pledged to preserve the Internet as a medium for free debate and open discussion, saying that he welcomes informed and constructive criticism while backing the empowerment of journalists to hold government and corporations to account.

Speaking at the National Press Club awards, he said politicians also had a responsibility not to seek cheap headlines while journalists should report accurately and fairly.

In his speech, Najib highlighted measures already undertaken to liberalise the media, including his decision to revoke the requirement for newspapers to renew their print licenses annually.

But the prime minister also claimed there are internet media who use online freedom to  slander, referring to his move to take legal action against Malaysiakini for allegedly defaming him by publishing allegations of impropriety in the recent Terengganu mentri besar saga.

Najib and Umno have demanded Malaysiakini issue an unconditional apology and withdraw the articles, besides providing compensation and a written undertaking to refrain from publishing any other defamatory statement.

The news portal, however, stressed that it would rely “on the defences of qualified privilege, fair comment and the guarantees of a free press” in accordance to the rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.