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Limits to media freedom: Anwar
Published on: Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Limits to media freedom: Anwar
Anwar presenting the Havana 2024 Award to James Ritchie (front, left).
KUCHING: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Monday asserted that saving the country and protecting the rights of the people is more important than getting high marks for international recognition.

In this context, Anwar said he does not mind Malaysia being downgraded in the World Press Freedom Index 2024 report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) recently, as the country was tough against racists and religious bigotry.

“I don’t mind; it does not matter if you are downgraded because we are tough against the racists and religious bigots because to my mind to save this country, to protect the rights of the majority and the rights of minorities is more important than to get high marks on international recognition.

“If you allow racism or fascism or religious bigotry to flourish, then you must anticipate the possibility of religious disharmony,” he said when officiating at the National Journalists’ Day (Hawana) 2024 celebration, here, Monday.

The World Press Freedom Index 2024 report showed Malaysia’s position in the index dropping 34 places to 107th compared to 73rd last year, with a score of 52.07 points.

On the other hand, Anwar said a vibrant democracy could not mature without a free press and those empowered to manage an economy and a nation must accept the fact.

He said a democracy entails and requires free media, space and freedom to turn out ideas, views and information.

“If there is no freedom, there will be no digestion of great and magnificent works in literature, culture and politics. All of this cannot be digested without the freedom to express properly. But what are the limits?

“The limits are when we use the space to divide, to sow seeds of hostility that will undermine the fabric of this country. That is why we have a duty and political resolve to define the necessary boundaries.

“It may not be well-received by some perspectives, especially in the West, which is why I say that in this post-normal era, described as chaotic, complex and full of conflicts, we also need to think about the correct methods,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the advice to not stir up issues involving the 3Rs (religion, race and royalty) is not meant to intimidate or suggest that they cannot be “touched” at all; rather, it is to protect the country from division.

“You can discuss racial matters, suggest and present opinions. Nowadays, it is claimed that 3R issues cannot be touched, but it is only 3R issues that are destructive, divisive, incite hatred, and insult race or religion that are not allowed.

“But if you discuss (for example) the need for certain views (involving 3R issues), that is not a problem. So don’t use the argument that (3R issues) cannot be touched (at all); that is completely untrue,” said Anwar.

Commenting on the role of the media, Anwar said the media has responsibilities and challenges far greater than the previous generation, especially in elevating dignity and building a new humanity.

“That’s why there needs to be a code of ethics. Journalistic ethics are not something imposed by the authorities or the Government, but a code to uphold the dignity and status of the nation. Elevating the status of the nation means embracing new realms, including digital and AI (artificial intelligence), but we must never forget to stay rooted to the ground.

“Staying rooted means upholding human values, moral values and ethics because humanity is not sustained solely by AI, development or infrastructure, but it is sustained by physical strength, the beauty of technology and human values. These are our greatest values,” said Anwar.

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