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Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty in the Mainstream and Alternative Media
Unformatted Document Text:  ICA-6-10348 3 in its first press freedom index in 2002. The Committee to Protect Journalists has named Mahathir to its list of Ten Worst Enemies of the Press three years running. The government’s control of mainstream newspapers is not overtly repressive but hegemonic in character. The main newspapers are owned by corporations that are closely aligned with the ruling alliance (Hilley, 2001; Wang, 2001). In addition to the mainstream media, however, Malaysians also have access to a small but lively alternative press. Print publications include Harakah, the popular fortnightly organ of PAS, and Aliran Monthly, published by the country’s most established human rights organization. Both have daily editions on the Internet, which has provided a fertile ground for radical journalists and activists in recent years. The most ambitious of the Web projects is Malaysiakini.com, launched shortly before the 1999 general election. Internet publications exploit a loophole in Malaysia’s media policy regime. Eager to demonstrate to foreign high-technology investors that he understands the Information Age, Mahathir in 1997 committed his government to a no-censorship policy for the Internet. Thus, while print and broadcast media are subject to licensing, online publications face no prior restraints. Like independent Internet publications elsewhere, Malaysia’s have yet to crack the problem of financial success. Malaysiakini, having failed to attract sufficient advertiser support in spite of drawing more than 200,000 visitors a day at its peak, is trying out a subscription model, with only limited success. Other sites survive by using volunteer energy, which is unable to sustain regular updates. They are “alternative” media not in the sense that they are interchangeable with mainstream print or broadcast news products – against which they do not have the capacity to compete directly – but in serving a distinct political purpose and adding to the media system’s diversity. The democratic role of alternative media has been recognized by several writers, including Curran (1999) and Downing (2001). Downing describes these media as “generally small-scale and in many different forms, that express an alternative vision to hegemonic policies, priorities, and perspectives” (p. v). They are, he says, “the chief standard bearers of a democratic communication structure” – “although flawed, immensely varied, and not necessarily oppositional, many such media do contribute in

Authors: George, Cherian.
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ICA-6-10348
3
in its first press freedom index in 2002. The Committee to Protect Journalists has named
Mahathir to its list of Ten Worst Enemies of the Press three years running. The
government’s control of mainstream newspapers is not overtly repressive but hegemonic
in character. The main newspapers are owned by corporations that are closely aligned
with the ruling alliance (Hilley, 2001; Wang, 2001).
In addition to the mainstream media, however, Malaysians also have access to a
small but lively alternative press. Print publications include Harakah, the popular
fortnightly organ of PAS, and Aliran Monthly, published by the country’s most
established human rights organization. Both have daily editions on the Internet, which
has provided a fertile ground for radical journalists and activists in recent years. The most
ambitious of the Web projects is Malaysiakini.com, launched shortly before the 1999
general election. Internet publications exploit a loophole in Malaysia’s media policy
regime. Eager to demonstrate to foreign high-technology investors that he understands
the Information Age, Mahathir in 1997 committed his government to a no-censorship
policy for the Internet. Thus, while print and broadcast media are subject to licensing,
online publications face no prior restraints.
Like independent Internet publications elsewhere, Malaysia’s have yet to crack
the problem of financial success. Malaysiakini, having failed to attract sufficient
advertiser support in spite of drawing more than 200,000 visitors a day at its peak, is
trying out a subscription model, with only limited success. Other sites survive by using
volunteer energy, which is unable to sustain regular updates. They are “alternative”
media not in the sense that they are interchangeable with mainstream print or broadcast
news products – against which they do not have the capacity to compete directly – but in
serving a distinct political purpose and adding to the media system’s diversity.
The democratic role of alternative media has been recognized by several writers,
including Curran (1999) and Downing (2001). Downing describes these media as
“generally small-scale and in many different forms, that express an alternative vision to
hegemonic policies, priorities, and perspectives” (p. v). They are, he says, “the chief
standard bearers of a democratic communication structure” – “although flawed,
immensely varied, and not necessarily oppositional, many such media do contribute in


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