The rough and rosy road: Sites of contestation in Malaysia's shackled media industry

Graham K Brown

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52 Citations (SciVal)


This article examines the politics of state media control in Malaysia, with a particular focus on the period since the economic and political turmoil of 1997 and 1998. It argues that the Barisan Nasional (BN) regime has pursued a two-pronged approach to media control, through a strategy of legislative regulation and corporate ownership. Regulatory controls such as stringent printing permit legislation have been weakened by the rise of the Internet as a form of political communication but the regime also has an array of more oppressive legislation at its disposal which has been used as a threat against Internet organizations that challenge its control. Moreover, the broader political economy of Internet access and the finincial limitations of such efforts limit the impact of the Internet as an alternative vehicle of communication. In the realm of corporate ownership, however, the regime has also experienced problems in its media strategy as factional struggles within and between the component parties of the ruling coalition have resulted in 'newspaper wars' between their respective publications, indicating very publicly the limits of the BN's media control strategy, as well as undermining its self-promoted image as a consensus builder. The article concludes that whilst neither of these challenges is sufficiently strong to undermine regime domination of the media industry and push significantly for democratization in the country, they are nonetheless important representations of the limits of the state's control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalPacific Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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