Let’s be more inclusive

IT IS heartening to hear that the Communication and Multimedia Ministry will expand media freedom.

It is important for Malaysians to handle this freedom with maturity and accountability.

Think of Wawasan 2020 that ought to be at our doorstep in fewer than 500 days. There must be an urgency to make this happen in a responsible way. We do not wish to be reminded of what happened in 2008 when the then prime minister allowed more space for dialogue and debate but it was poorly handled to the extent it led to abuses and heightened social tension. Freedom of expression can be a double-edged sword if not properly handled collectively.

While we applaud the "reactivation" of national news broadcasts in Mandarin and Tamil, which were held up for some reason, there must be drastic rethinking aligned to the new thrust for a new Malaysia.

The Mandarin news is read by a Chinese and the Tamil news is read by an Indian. Race colours the coverage, person interviewed or "captured" for the news item. All this reinforces the "racial" outlook and focus of the event despite the rejection of racial partisanship in GE14. There even seems to be a preference to focus more on events in China and India.

All this must change to reflect the new Malaysian identity so that news readers, the people interviewed and the audience come from a cross-section of society; to make it more representative of Malaysia without having to skew to any group.

Malaysians must be able to view any news broadcast that they choose and benefit from it. The broadcast should not be for one race only. To make this happen there must be Bahasa Malaysia subtitles. This will be useful for other Malaysians to follow the Mandarin or Tamil (or even English) news. It will also accustom them to the language. They may even pick up helpful words and phrases.

The suggestions are doable with minimal disruption and cost. They can attract new viewers and help to lay a new foundation for inclusiveness and acceptance. In many ways it will cut down the preoccupation with ethnicity and instead better promote a Malaysian "truly Asia" persona culminating from its multiple tradition and heritage.

It goes a long way in institutionalising expression of freedom and strengthening unity leveraging on the multiple groups and understanding therein. This is what media freedom should be anchoring as the overarching outcome.

On another note, all the mainstream channels present stale backdrops of buildings, trains, and "gadgets" when Malaysia is famous for its megabiodiversity. It only goes to show how insipid we are in the eyes of the world. This must be improved to shape the future inclusive of the media landscape and cybersphere that will "wow" the world.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com