Good governance and free press go together, says C4

KUALA LUMPUR,  May 17 – A media that has poor access to information will not be able to help in the promotion  of good governance, as the “choking” of the media will equally affect work in the area of good governance, says Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

She was responding to a report on the state of affairs of Malaysian media and how investigative journalism continued to see poor attention among local media practitioners. The report, “ The Trust in Media” gauged the views of 1,200 respondents on various issues related to the Malaysian media. Eighty-three percent of respondents said there was very little investigative reporting in the media.

Speaking during a webinar held in conjunction with the launch of the report by IFJ Asia-Pacific in collaboration with Merdeka Centre recently, Cynthia said there was an incredible lack of investigative journalism in the country and that while cost could be one factor, there were other factors contributing to the state.

Cost is a factor but the absence of a proper framework for the right to information for journalists is a major, she said.

The whole culture of seeking information from authorities, (and) challenging authorities to keep information where they belong in the public domain, and not keeping it to themselves, is not there, she said.

“You cannot really blame the journalists.” They have been doing their best but the strict laws that govern the media, such as the Printing Press Act and the fact that the print media has a yearly renewal process to go through with the Home Ministry for their license, fear of reprisals for reporting are among the factors that are not allowing the local press to move ahead, she said.

This has also led to journalists not being trained to ask probing questions, for fear of the anticipated reprisals, she said.

There needs to be an understanding of why the media is an important tenet of democracy and in the promotion of the rule of law. “When there is a framework for right to information, there will be also less speculative news, less gossip, rumours, and things tend to regulate themselves.”

This will be also critical for organisations like C4 which is involved in the work of promoting good governance and exposing corruption, she said.