Malaysia`s media changes tone after shock poll results
Malaysia's government-friendly media has changed its tone after shock election gains by the opposition, aiming to win back readers alienated by biased coverage, industry sources said Wednesday.
Malaysia's mainstream newspapers and television networks, many of them partly government-owned, were awash with flattering coverage of the ruling coalition ahead of Saturday's polls.
But after unprecedented losses, which saw the government lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in four decades, opposition figures who had been ignored or vilified are now being splashed on front pages.
"It is a wake up call for us. The mainstream media should revisit and review our policies," said Azman Ujang, general manager of the state news agency Bernama.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Malaysia 124 out of 169 on its worldwide press freedom index, and says the main media are "often compelled to ignore or to play down the many events organised by the opposition".
But Azman said the mainstream media now has a "higher responsibility" to report news fairly or face being abandoned by its audience, which flocked to blogs and online news portals for impartial election coverage.
"Malaysian media can learn from this because the people have spoken loud and clear, not only what kind of government they want but also the kind of media they prefer," he told AFP.
Gayathry Venkiteswaran from Malaysia's Centre for Independent Journalism said there had been some "positive changes" in media which likely felt they now had no choice but to report fairly on the opposition.
"Editors and journalists here have to do a lot of soul-searching. It is very hard to dismantle practices which have been in place for such a long time."