KUALA LUMPUR, 30 June 2009: Most Malaysian youths keep up to date with the news, but almost half say they mistrust the sources they get it from, according to the Merdeka Center‘s 2008 National Youth Survey.
Ibrahim Suffian “There is skepticism over the news they are getting in the mainstream media as well as the internet,” program director Ibrahim Suffian told a press conference today.
Almost half of the Malaysians aged 20 to 35 who were surveyed by the centre said they read newspapers more than four times a week, and more than half said they watch television for news more than four times a week.
But 49% said they distrust or strongly distrust the mainstream media’s reports on political and current issues while 46% said they trust the mainstream media. The remaining 5% said they didn’t know or were undecided.
But even though significant numbers of youth mistrust the mainstream press, they were not abandoning it for alternative, online-only news portals.
When asked what websites they go to for news, 39% of respondents named mainstream Malay-language sites like Bernama and Berita Harian first. Only 9% named alternative news sites like Malaysiakini or Malaysian Insider first, and 5% named blogs and entertainment sites first.
Men in their twenties with high incomes were the most likely to access alternative websites for news, said Ibrahim.
The survey found that Malaysian youth often said they didn’t trust the mainstream media because they think it tends to exaggerate news or show bias towards certain political parties. But many hold onto the perception that news appearing in print was more trustworthy.
“When news is publicised, it must have a certain level of truth,” one respondent was quoted as saying.
Survey question: How strongly do you trust or distrust the mainstream media in terms of its
reporting on current and political news? (Source: Merdeka Center)
Internet a growing source
Still, the internet is a growing source of news among Malaysian youth. Of the 70% of respondents who said they have internet access, 44% surf the internet for news.
The internet also gives Malaysian youth greater access to news from outside the country. Major international news sites, such as CNN and the BBC, were the second most frequently named when respondents were asked what websites they go to for news.
However, not all Malaysian youth are engaged and well informed, said Ibrahim. Respondents were also split between those who consume news regularly and those who do not.
The survey also found that people in their twenties were more likely to go to the media for lifestyle and entertainment information rather than politics and current affairs.
“About half are plugged in, half care about what’s going on, and the other half are more personally focused,” he said.
Another factor that might have affected the results is the fact that alternative news websites are often blocked at work and on university campuses, said Ibrahim.
The Merdeka Center conducts the National Youth Survey annually. The 2008 survey polled 2,518 young people across the country between November and December 2008 about their views, values, and consumption habits.