Selangor Journal
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim autographs a book after officiating the 2024 National Journalists Day (Hawana) in Kuching, Sarawak, on May 27, 2024. — Picture by SADIQ ASYRAF/PEJABAT PERDANA MENTERI

International recognition unimportant compared to protecting people’s rights — PM

KUCHING, May 27 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has asserted that saving the country and protecting the people’s rights are more important than achieving high marks for international recognition.

In this context, he does not mind Malaysia being downgraded in the World Press Freedom Index 2024 report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) recently, as the country is tough against racists and religious bigotry.

“I do not mind; it does not matter if you are downgraded because we are tough against the racists and religious bigots because to my mind to save this country, to protect the rights of the majority and the rights of minorities is more important than to get high marks on international recognition.

“If you allow racism or fascism or religious bigotry to flourish, then you must anticipate the possibility of religious disharmony,” he said when officiating at the National Journalists’ Day (Hawana) 2024 celebration today.

The World Press Freedom Index 2024 report showed Malaysia’s position in the index dropping 34 places to 107th compared to 73rd last year, with a score of 52.07 points.

On the other hand, Anwar said a vibrant democracy could not mature without a free press, and those empowered to manage an economy and a nation must accept the fact.

He said a democracy entails and requires free media, space, and freedom to express ideas, views, and information.

“If there is no freedom, there will be no digestion of great and magnificent works in literature, culture and politics. All of this cannot be digested without the freedom to express it properly. But what are the limits?

“The limits are when we use the space to divide, to sow seeds of hostility that will undermine the fabric of this country. That is why we have a duty and political resolve to define the necessary boundaries.

“It may not be well-received by some perspectives, especially in the West, which is why I say that in this post-normal era, described as chaotic, complex and full of conflicts, we also need to think about the correct methods,” Anwar said.

The advice not to stir up issues involving the 3Rs (religion, race, and royalty) is not meant to intimidate or suggest that they cannot be ‘touched’ at all; rather, it is to protect the country from division.

“You can discuss racial matters, suggest and present opinions. Nowadays, it is claimed that 3R issues cannot be touched, but it is only 3R issues that are destructive, divisive, incite hatred, and insult race or religion that are not allowed.

“But if you discuss (for example) the need for certain views (involving 3R issues), that is not a problem. So do not use the argument that (3R issues) cannot be touched (at all); that is completely untrue,” he said.

Commenting on the media’s role, Anwar said they have responsibilities and challenges far greater than the previous generation, especially in elevating dignity and building a new humanity.

“That is why there needs to be a code of ethics. Journalistic ethics are not something imposed by the authorities or the government but a code to uphold the dignity and status of the nation.

“Elevating the nation’s status means embracing new realms, including digital and AI (artificial intelligence), but we must never forget to stay rooted to the ground.

“Staying rooted means upholding human values, moral values and ethics because humanity is not sustained solely by AI, development or infrastructure, but it is sustained by physical strength, the beauty of technology and human values. These are our greatest values,” he said.

— Bernama

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