*Sharafa Dauda & Nik Norma Nik Hasan
This article uses the News Framing theory to examine how Malaysian online newspapers framed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal set of development targets seeking to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. This aligns with the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) and research already shows that Malaysians exhibit an intensive online news consumption behavior. Hence, Malaysian online newspapers can assign importance to developmental issues and raise them to the planes of national discourse. Therefore, the study uses thematic analysis to explore a census of 16 English Language news on the SDGs in six Malaysian online newspapers. The significant themes from the findings appeared in five broad themes: economy, education, environment, infrastructure and poverty. These however, intermingled with all the 17SDGs and 11MP. Salience was attributed to Malaysian development agendas through routinely used key words and phrases, news elements and news sources. This suggests that the sampled Malaysian online newspapers served a watchdog role. However, only alternative online newspapers (Free Malaysia Today and Malaysiakini) highlighted both positive and negative development indices, despite Malaysia’s developing nation status. Thus, the sampled mainstream media (The Star Online, New Straits Times, Malay Mail Online and Borneo Post Online) failed to utilize their strategic position and use news angles to appraise and convey fundamental development challenges that can propel the attainment of Malaysia’s development agenda. Consequently, this portrayed Malaysia as a nation without development challenges and suggested that the above mainstream online newspapers lacked editorial independence. In addition, all the online newspapers in the study narrowed attribution of information to few news sources, thereby excluding competing accounts. This neglected a very important news routine of fact checking from multiple sources. It also raises questions on the credibility of the information, diversity of views and speculates on the possibility of bias.
Keywords: Malaysia, sustainable development goals, development journalism, content analysis