Najib Asks For Press Support


By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — While insisting that the government respects press freedom, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (picture) has called on the media to “become his partner” and back the agenda of his administration.

Najib said tonight it was important that the media act as an educational tool to advocate “change” instead of inducing fear against it.

The media, said Najib, should play a vital role in his administration’s effort to end the subsidy mentality, nestled among the Malays which form the country’s majority and who are becoming more unsettled by the liberalisation efforts of Najib’s New Economic Model.

Referring to his government’s plan to cut away sugar subsidy and the outrage it sparked, the PM said it was the responsibility of the press to translate the move as positive for the good of the voters and the economy.

“Because of the high level of sugar consumption, the story must be skewed to inform the public even though the price of the commodity has gone up, it is not good because we take too much sugar,” said Najib in his speech at the National Press Club awards here.

Najib also denied the allegations that freedom of the press is curtailed, calling it an unfair description of the government-linked Malaysian mainstream media.

“I do feel at times that the accusations that Malaysia lacks press freedom is grossly unfair,” he said.

The country’s sixth premier maintained, just as his more authoritative predecessors had in the past, that “as long as the reports do not run afoul of” the country’s “existing laws, the press is free to report anything”.

And echoing past administrations, Najib reasoned that press freedom should coincide with responsibility.

“In any case, I have always been of view that freedom without responsibility is no freedom at all. It is in fact, chaos,” he said.

Najib tonight also pointed out that his administration had not used any law such as the Internal Security Act, a law that permits detention without trial, on journalists or the media.

“Don’t worry about the ISA, or suspension. I have no plan to use it unless you are irresponsible,” he said.

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