pic by ARIF KARTONO
USHERING in 2020 can be somewhat bittersweet.
It is supposed to usher in the developed nation status, but regressive and self-serving policies in the past decade or so had derailed the plans and Malaysians will have to wait another 10 years, in 2030, and the enabler is the Shared Prosperity Vision.
Despite the fact that the nation had not perfectly achieved Vision 2020, at least not fully, it has in its own right attained some standing that can measure up to any other developed countries.
Malaysia is now a nation where power is not absolute on the monopoly of anyone or a single party/coalition and the citizenry truly believe that they have the power to change the government if they choose to do so.
Malaysians have never felt so empowered that they have taken the freedom of speech and opinion to a level beyond human comprehension.
Nevertheless, the believe that their views and votes in particular could change the government and determine public policies is probably the best there is that 2020 and more can offer the nation.
Then there is the freedom of the media, in particular the mainstream. Long perceived to be controlled and compliant, they should move into 2020 with more zest after enjoying an uninterrupted period of freedom since the change of the government in 2018.
In fact, to the chagrin of many supporters of the current administration, the mainstream media seems to take it that the freedom meant that they should be allowed to promote the old regime and vilify the present one.
No doubt there had been some changes in those leading the mainstream media, but a number of those who were openly supporting the previous administration during the general election and did so beyond their journalistic demands, are still there plying their trade.
If, in the beginning there were jitters that they may end up replaced, it soon dissipated when after more than a year of the new administration, no one came knocking at their doors.
And with the present administration very conscious of its promise of defending the freedom of the press, it is unlikely that the situation is going to change.
But that’s when several ironies begin.
Quite a number of these publications and media houses lost their credibility due to their bias, at times grovel, for the previous administration. A convenient excuse was that their hands were tied and they were “forced” to support the ruling coalition.
This led to lower circulation and readership which affected advertising revenue.
But with the new government not attempting to dictate their contents, one particular publication continued to report the way they did prior to the change of the government.
It went bust and some members of the public blamed the present government for not helping out although it is a private entity.
It had been able to keep afloat before because the previous administration had supported it financially and due to that, its editorial, whether dictated or otherwise, supports the then government and vilifies the then Opposition.
For the supporters of the government, why should it extend any favours to the publication when it is obviously unrepentant and had gone beyond journalistic ethics in criticising the current administration.
It is also quite ironic that these media practitioners, who were subjugated in their professional pursuits, would want to support those who had enslaved them. They probably epitomised the Malays who preferred the colonialists who assured them of food on the table than the uncertainties of independence.
Of course, it can be argued that press freedom should mean extending support to the critics and in fact that is the true test. But the public had judged it and it was found wanting.
But beyond the semantics of what is fair criticism or that which is rabid, the crux of the matter is that the traditional media is suffering from the disruption of digitalisation.
Another media house which has both print and electronics is making a fair number of its employees
redundant. By now, the argument of whether the government should step in and assist the mainstream media, but at the same time there are fears that it would lead to control and expected compliant, is fast becoming mere semantics.
It is almost an inevitability. The media, print in particular, can’t function as it used to and its competition is no more the rival papers, but the general populace at large, who, armed with mobile phones, are churning and breaking news every minute if not seconds.
Their only travesty to journalism, most times, is context and accuracy.
Someone pointed out that it is actually not too simplistic to equate the plight of conventional media to that of the conventional taxi services.
While the conventional taxis are still around, but they struggle to survive and much as they blame the unfettered rise in e-hailing, their failure to change and adapt to the changing times and preferences had contributed as much if not more.
They are, but just one small segment of the disrupted entities in the bigger regime of things and many of those affected, who are unprepared, will feel quite rudderless and reflective.
And Auld Land Syne will add to the melancholia.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.