KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 – The overall opinion of Malaysians on the local media may not be all that favourable at this point of time, if a study, carried out by the Merdeka Centre in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific, is good to consider.
According to the findings of the “The Trust in Media” study, only 15 percent of the 1,200 respondents comprising a wide selection of people from various walks of lives and different parts of the country, expressed a favourable opinion of the media while 45 percent of them did not think too favourably. Another 38 percent took a neutral stand, explaining that they were happy with somethings and unhappy with other things.
The respondents were given a set of questions to gauge on their perception of the media, standards of reporting, journalists and media coverage in Malaysia.
Presenting the report during a webinar held in conjunction with the launch of the report on May 10 by IFJ Asia-Pacific, Programs Director of Merdeka Center for Opinion Research Ibrahim Suffian, said among the grievances the people had of the media included biasness in reporting (63 percent) – this was mostly related to news from the website -, inaccuracy in report (93 percent) and insufficient investigative journalism (84 percent).
The webinar, which discussed key takeaways from the report, was moderated by independent journalist, Norman Goh, while other speakers were Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), , Charles F. Moiera, freelance journalist, Associate Member of National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) and Jahabar Sadiq, Founder of the Malaysian Insider.
Television stations continued to be a major source of current news for the respondents, followed by radio, websites and newspapers, with people generally seeking local news relevant to them such as what is happening in the country, the COVID-19 situation and issues affecting them directly. Seventy-two percent of them also said social media has changed the way they receive and access news, with 53 percent of them using Facebook to get news feeds, or to share.
On the news source that they trust most, 72 percent of respondents said they believed the news from the TV stations, followed by radio, and newspapers. As for news from the websites, the more established brands and sites enjoyed more trust, while the lesser knowns enjoyed the least trust.
Commenting on a sizable number of respondents (39 percent) who said they trusted their own personal sources of information for news that comes through word-of-mouth rather than the media, Ibrahim also pointed out the profile of these respondents and a correlation in views.
“They are mostly male Malays, who trust the people they know more than an online media.”
Most Malay males are members of some political party, and with UMNO claiming three million members, PAS one million and PKR one million with 30 to 40 percent of them Malays, discussions do take place outside the media, and many of them with such affiliations believe the information from the individuals they know, Ibrahim said.
They believe these individuals, who are their sources of information, generally know more and giving them more information than the news portals, he said.
Asked on whether political parties should be allowed to own newspapers, 54 percent believed parties can own newspapers, citing the parties success in running newspapers as good reasons.
Thirty-five percent of them disagreed while 11 percent were unsure.
A contrast was also seen between Bumiputera respondents and non-Bumiputera respondents on whether the Government has the right to control media. The Bumiputera respondents felt the government had the right to control the press and the Non-Bumiputeras felt the media should have more freedom.
A majority however believed a legal reform was required to regulate the media and to also protect journalists.
The study was supported by the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM). About 60 percent of the respondents were under the age of 40. A majority of the respondents – at 50 percent – were Malays, with Chinese taking up 26 percent and Bumiputeras from Sabah and Sarawak and Indians forming the rest.