Sarawak deputy chief minister Tan Sri George Chan Hong Nam

National newspapers planning to expand their operations to Sarawak have been reminded to be mindful of the state’s social and political sensitivities and not incite racial disharmony by capitalising on racist issues.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said competition should be seen as a positive development for the media industry but outsiders or individuals who raised sensitive issues which could create havoc and racial disharmony would not be welcome in Sarawak.

“Members of the press must assist the government to preserve peace and racial harmony through responsible reporting. We must stand for truth, and rumours must not be a source of our news,” he said at the Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) Chinese New Year gathering, here last night.

He said plans by the big peninsula-based dailies to expand to Sarawak was also a wake-up call for local companies to improve the terms and conditions for their employees, besides giving greater room for journalists to grow in their profession or career.

He also said that local journalists should also embrace social networks like Facebook and Twitter or even have their own blogs by utilising the tools available to them through the development in information technology, particularly the Internet.

“Through the social media, a journalist can become his own brand and feel the pulse of the society he works in,” Dr Chan said, but advised journalists to be smart about it and not take everything on the Internet at face value.

He said that in disseminating news and information which were critical for creating a well-informed public, it was important for the media to understand the power it had to influence, shape and mould society.

The media had to realise that its reach was becoming even wider now because a local newspaper could be local for its content but its readership could reach beyond its circulation borders due to the Internet, he said. — Bernama