KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 (Bernama) — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called on members of the newly-minted Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia to be the eyes through which the world sees Malaysia and the ears through which it hears Malaysian voices.
Najib said that just as he had a responsibility to protect Malaysian values and traditions, the correspondents, on their part, had a responsibility to represent Malaysian values, people and politicians as they really were.
In protecting and upholding those values as prime minister, he said, the government had to step in from time to time to restrict publications or activities that put local traditions at risk.
“And I make no apology for that,” he said when launching the club here.
The prime minister noted that it was a crude oversimplication to look at Malaysia from a Western standpoint “and say that we are wrong”.
He drove home the point that it was not about deciding whether the Eastern or Western model was “right” as they were both right for the cultures they served.
“Put simply, Malaysia is not the West. We’re not better or worse, we’re just different. It’s all too easy for politicians in less developed countries to stump for votes by attacking Western culture and values.
And that’s not a path I’m ever going to follow,” Najib said. He observed that what seemed normal and obvious to Western eyes was not the same as what seemed normal and obvious to Malaysians.
“And I take issue with the notion, shot through the complacent reporting of some of your less complicated, less reflective colleagues, that Western values are the only values.
“Malaysia is not a country where ‘anything goes’. For us, some things are not OK,” Najib told his audience.
In the same vein, he said, those in Asia should not pass judgment on what happened in places like Europe, Australia and North America.
“I’ve always believed that instead of sniping at each other from opposite sides of the world, we would all do well to try and better understand what we can learn from one another,” Najib said.
Turning to censorship rules, he said there could be more here than what foreign reporters were used to in their home countries.
“With hindsight, sometimes these rules have been used in heavy-handed ways. But I want to look to the future,” he said, explaining that was why he launched a wholesale review of Malaysia’s censorship laws last year to foster a media that were vibrant, transparent and fair and transcended the politics of vested interests.
“It’s also why I’ve relaxed decades-old media licensing requirements and ensured that the online sphere remains completely free of regulation,” he said.
Najib noted that this liberalisation of the media was about real action, not just election-year rhetoric, saying that since he became prime minister, Malaysia had moved up nine places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Najib said Malaysia was now officially one of Southeast Asia’s most media-friendly nations, ranked well ahead of Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
“Yes, there’s still some way to go, but it’s impossible to deny that change is happening in Malaysia,” he said.
Nevertheless, Najib said he was not naive as he knew that editors would choose critical stories above positive ones.
“There’re always two sides to every story, and things are rarely as simple as they seem,” he reminded the foreign journalists, telling them not to just assume the opposition angle was the only one to take.
Najib said he was determined to see that the government become more approachable and more responsive to their needs.
Source : Bernama