Monday, January 11, 2016

The role of the media in nation building 

Salleh Said Keruak 

After Malaya gained independence from Britain, the country entered into a new era of post-Merdeka and the information and broadcasting department was entrusted with the task of building the public’s confidence in the country’s leadership, said HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah on Friday in his speech during the opening of the Kompleks Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah in Ipoh, Perak. 

The next task, said HRH the Sultan of Perak, was to teach Malaysians to be proud of their newly independent country and to unite Malayans from the many states who came from diverse cultural, religious, ethnic and lingual backgrounds. 

Later on, after the creation of Malaysia, the information and broadcasting department was faced with many challenges brought on by the Communist insurgency, the split of Singapore from Malaysia, and the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation, added the Sultan. 

The information and broadcasting department succeeded in this endeavour of winning the hearts and minds of the people through a strategic and effective psychological warfare program. Radio Malaya, on the other hand, soon after independence, embarked on nation building through a creative and innovative program, said the Sultan. 

The media is an important mechanism that can influence the world's direction, said the Sultan. As such, the country's official media has to serve as the yardstick and practice news ethics that is fair and authentic. “The official media acts as a bridge that connects the government and the people and vice-versa,” the Sultan said. 

“Hence, the ethics of news processing is a must," said Sultan Nazrin Shah, and HRH stressed that public interest has to be given importance. “News processing by the country's official media that is too biased or counter-productive will only separate the people from the government,” the Sultan added. 

This is a very timely reminder from HRH the Sultan and is something that both the mainstream and alternative medias must take note. In fact, some even say that the alternative media has taken over the role of the mainstream media and this is true for most countries all over the world where the majority of the people obtain their news from the alternative media and the popularity of the print media has declined to an all-time low. 

The media must be responsible in how it conducts itself because what it publishes can influence the public and shape public opinion. Disseminating false or distorted news can have devastating results and can trigger conflict. Of late we have seen inaccurate news being published that brought the country to the brink of racial conflict. Only fast action by the authorities managed to avert what could have resulted in bloodshed. So it is necessary that we heed the advice of HRH the Sultan and ensure that the media helps in nation building and not the opposite. 

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