In The Mass Media

Don’t use religion to curb media freedom

KUALA LUMPUR: The editor-in-chief of the now defunct news portal The Malaysian Insider, Jahabar Sadiq, expressed hope that the country would not come to a point where media freedom is restricted by the use of the religion card.

He said although he would like “maqasid syariah” (the purpose and objective of syariah) to be discussed alongside media freedom, it should not be a deterrent for journalists to pursue the truth.

“Maqasid syariah is great as long as it allows me to do what I want to do as a journalist. I don’t want the mufti, or say the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi), telling me I can’t do my job because of it.

“I think if you are a Muslim, you just want to do an honest job. What we all want is the truth. Whether it is maqasid syariah or any other measures, you have to allow the truth to come out,” he said during the Maqasid Syariah and Media Freedom forum here today.

The only limit to media freedom, Jahabar said, is the legal rights, adding that it is basic human rights for journalists to report freely.

Journalist activist Masjaliza Hamzah had earlier pointed out that although the government had used various excuses in the past when clamping down on media freedom, including national security, the religion card was seldom, or never, used.

Masjaliza, who is a Malaysiakini sub-editor, added that the Malaysian public need to understand that they have to pay in order for them to consume good media contents.

In response, media organisations need to realise this and should come up with methods and better diverse news to make the public feel the need to subscribe to media contents, she said.

The forum was conducted by pro-moderation lobby group G25 and Penang state public policy think tank Penang Institute, in conjunction with the World Press Freedom Day.