Malaysia: Home Minister admits Internet news is now mainstream

Malaysia's Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, was reported to have said that Internet media is no “alternative media” as more and more Malaysians were obtaining news and information from the Internet.

He said this at after giving the keynote address at the Colloquium on Media Policy in Malaysia, organised by the Asian Institute for Developing Communication (Aidcom) in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Syed Hamid

He also noted that newspaper readership is on the decline compared to other news sources. As such, according to Syed Hamid, mainstream press were trying to emulate media outlets online by trying to be as critical as possible to be popular.

Syed Hamid also brought up the issue of a media council to regulate press. Again, he did not mention whether or not the media council would regulate online content.

One of Malaysia's mainstream newspaper, the Malay language Utusan Malaysia, has faced several defamation suits as well as a number of police reports and criticism from other newspapers on its journalism ethics, which might possibly explain the call for a media council.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding Syed Hamid's comment, bloggers and a webmaster of a news portal have been facing legalities this year, with three bloggers reported to be facing (possible) sedition charges, and the webmaster of Malaysia Today under detention without trial.

Activists are against the idea of a media council, and will only budge if the restrictive laws on publication, namely the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Internal Security Act, are abolished.

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