Saturday 10 September 2011

'Internet forces gov't to be more accountable'

The Internet has helped intensify the pressure on the politicians to be more accountable in Malaysia, said a report in the New York Times.

"Analysts say that the online media have changed the political discourse in Malaysia by forcing politicians to respond to events more quickly...," said the report, which also appeared in the global edition of the International Herald Tribune.

"The Internet has been credited with playing an influential role in the 2008 election, when the governing coalition lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time."

bersih rally petaling street 090711More recently, the Internet has allowed polls reform movement Bersih 2.0 to neutralise the incessant attack by the government, which has an iron grip on the traditional media.

"They have lost the monopoly on truth," said the report quoted Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan.

"For a long time, the government had complete control over the news agenda through the control of the mainstream media. That is gone.

"They can continue to tell the mainstream media what to report, but that doesn't stop Malaysians from knowing that there's another version of the truth out there, and they get it from the Internet."

Cannot say different things to different audiences

Masjaliza Hamzah, executive officer of the Centre for Independent Journalism, told New York Times that local news websites "managed to challenge the authoritative ways in which news is defined and formed in Malaysia."

According to her, these sites often cover issues like human rights, which does not "get the coverage that it deserves" in the print media.

bridget welshMeanwhile, Singapore Management University associate professor Bridget Welsh (right) said that politicians can no longer have "the same luxury as in the past to say different things to different audiences."

"You are also starting to see slowly a demand for more effective policies," she said.

Welsh also said that many older Umno members feared the Internet because "they are used to telling everybody what to do."

In the wake of the Bersih protest, Prime Minister Najib Razak has called for a review of the country's censorship laws.

"I have decided the old ways of censorship needs to be studied," he said. "It is no longer effective and should be reviewed."

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