KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Six out of 10 Malaysians don’t trust the mainstream media while only one out of five has access to online news, according to a synopsis of a recent survey here.
The June 27 to July 25 Merdeka Center survey commissioned by a research organisation showed that 57 per cent of Malays polled said they did not trust reports in the mainstream media, while 33 per cent trusted the media and 10 per cent said they did not know.
As for the Chinese community, 58 per cent said they did not trust the mainstream media, 30 per cent trusted and 12 per cent did not know.
A total 590 Chinese and 413 Malays as well as five focus group discussions with Chinese voters in Peninsula Malaysia were involved in the survey.
The findings will provide sober reading for many mainstream media organisations. Recent circulation figures show that English and Malay-language newspapers like New Straits Times, The Star, Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia have all suffered significant drop in circulation this year compared to 2009, with some as severe as 20 per cent.
Privately, newspaper executives note that partisan political coverage has hurt sales.The survey results also showed that access to the alternative media remained low with 80 per cent of the respondents said newspapers were still their main source of information.
Only 21 per cent of those surveyed had read the news on the Internet over the past one month but most were found reading the online version of the mainstream media.
The majority of the respondents also said that they did not have a strong trust in the alternative media although many agreed that they are more trustworthy.
Comments from the focus group discussions also showed that many felt that there is limited media freedom in the country because of the practice of censorship.
Some participants in the focus groups also pointed out that Malay-language newspapers were the most biased.
Two political scientists said the survey results were not entirely unexpected.
“This is probably the group that has not registered as voters or are not bothered with what is happening in the country,” said political scientist Dr Sivamurugan Pandian when asked about the survey results.
“Or maybe because of the high expectation after 2008, they might have become fence-sitters,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
“And it could be also there has been too much politicking, that people are getting tired of them,” he added.
Sivamurugan explained that the failure of both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties to explain their political agenda could have resulted in the outcome.
UKM’s Dr Agus Yusoff agreed, saying that ownership of media alone would not guarantee the success of the political parties.
“In managing information, managing media, the messages, both sides would have to work harder now,” Agus told The Malaysian Insider.
“If they go on spinning, sensationalising issues they will be drowned,” said the political scientist.
“Information is just a click away, whether it is mainstream media or the Internet people do not believe everything they read. They know how to judge,” he added.