(Created by and used with the permission of Walski )
That was this morning.
Yesterday, a ‘Boycott the Newspapers!’ online petition was launched. The petition can be accessed and signed online at http://www.petitiononline.com/hartal/petition.html
This morning the press conference to launch ‘Paper Free Tuesday’ and to announce the several civil society initiatives related to the ‘Boycott the Newspapers’ initiative was held at the Blog House. The committee has asked me to extend my thanks to the Protem Committee of the National All Blogs for their assistance in the use of Blog House and their support in this initiative.
Invitations to the press conference were sent out last Thursday and Friday to all the local mainstream media.
The Star, The Sun, The Oriental Daily, Malaysiakini, S-Keadilan, Artis Pro Aktif and Centre for Independent Journalism sent representatives to cover the press conference. Also present were blogger friends as well as individual well-wishers. The committee wishes to extend its gratitude to all who came.
I will reproduce below the press statement that was issued on behalf of the committee this morning.
After the press statement was read out, to formally launch the boycott, an sms announcing the same was sent to the Big Chiefs at NST, The Star, Berita Harian and BERNAMA.
Committee members ( Chew, Helen, Capt Yusof, Shar and myself ) at the PC. 3 others not in the photo are Bernard (Zorro), Nanda and Fari.
Blogger / non-blogger friends
Our friends from the media
More friends from the media
Birdseye view of our media friends
You would have noticed that the committee and many of our friends were in yellow T-shirts.
Yes, to help publicise this initiative and to try and raise funds for this effort, we have also produced a ‘Boycott the Newspapers’ T-shirt.
Front view of the T-shirt
It cost us slightly over RM10.00 per T-shirt. We are selling them at RM15.00 each. If you would like to purchase this T-shirt and help us with this effort you can send us an e-mail at email@example.com or give Shar a call at the hartalmsmhotline at 012-2484794 for details of payment and delivery arrangements. Please note that there will be an additional charge for outstation orders to cover courier / pos laju charges.
People, the online petition is yours. ‘Paper Free Tuesday’ is also yours. Its success or otherwise is up to you.
Below is the press statement released today by the committee
On ‘Boycott the Newspapers’ initiative by The People’s Parliament
‘Hartal MSM’ working committee: When & Why
This committee comprising 8 individuals was set up in late December 2007 when it became apparent from participants’ comments in The People’s Parliament that there was a genuine concern in society over how news reported by the mainstream media (MSM) did not always tally with facts.
The earnest discussions in our blog and numerous suggestions by readers on strategies to address this concern clearly indicated that many treated the shortcomings of MSM with the seriousness they deserved. It also became obvious that some structure and methodology would have to be put into place if the suggestions to tackle MSM’s failings were to be effectively implemented.
Hence the formation of our committee to manage a boycott of newspapers.
Which newspapers make up MSM?
In the context of The People’s Parliament initiative to tackle the matter of dishonest news reporting, we have to say that, regrettably and without exception, but to varying degrees, this would include all of the local newspapers.
False reporting by MSM
In truth, this is not a recent phenomenon but has been going on for some time. However, a reference to recent events of public importance and the less-than-honest coverage of the same by the MSM would be sufficient.
On 9 Oct 2007, Malaysiakini reported that the Ipoh Timur parliamentary constituency had seen an increase of 8,463 in the number of registered voters within the space of three months. Of particular concern were the new 3,208 postal voters even though there are no new army camps or new police stations in the constituency. MSM did not carry any report on this.
On 10 Nov 2007, a civil society-driven rally in Kuala Lumpur was attended by some 60,000 people of diverse backgrounds, calling for electoral reforms. Bersih supporters peaceably marched to the palace of the Yang DiPertuan Agong to deliver a people’s memorandum on the electoral reforms sought. Yet a report in The Star of the following day gave the impression that this rally comprised no more than 4,000 people and was effectively dispersed by the authorities.
On 20 Nov 2007, senior political correspondent Lydia Lim of the Singapore Straits Times reported on the 10 ongoing International Court of Justice hearings between Malaysia and Singapore to decide on the dispute between the two nations for sovereignty over the Pedra Branca. Lim’s report said that the Malaysian legal team had resorted to the use of a photograph of dubious authenticity lifted from an anonymous blog to create a photographic illusion and exaggerate the proximity of Pedra Branca to Johor. This scandal was reported in numerous blogs. However none of the MSM published this piece of disturbing news.
On 25 Nov 2007, some 30,000 Malaysians joined the Hindraf march headed for the British High Commission. In the early hours of that same day, several thousand Malaysians were forcefully contained in the compound of the Batu Caves. The Star reported on Nov 26 that the IGP had said no teargas or water cannons had been used at the Batu Caves. Nonetheless, many blogs and alternative news sources on the Internet published photographic evidence to the contrary. To date, The Star has not shown any inclination to pursue this matter with a view to giving its readers the truth. In fact, in the days following, there appeared to be a concerted and contrived effort through the MSM to unabashedly vilify this public rally as an attempt by Indians to stir up racial unrest.
On 19 Dec 2007, Malaysiakini reported a statement issued by Anwar Ibrahim in which the ex-deputy premier implicated former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik and his successor Chan Kong Choy in the RM4.8 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project irregularity. None of the MSM carried this news item. Interestingly, MSM have also not seen it fit to undertake an investigation into this scandal.
On 21 Jan 2008, most, if not all of the MSM reported a crowd of some 21,000 at the MIC-sponsored ‘Meet the PM’ rally at the Badminton Stadium in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur the previous day. Yet our own committee member who attended the event reported that the number of attendees ranged between 6,000 and 8,000 at best.
Our expectations of MSM
We want responsible, ethical news reporting. Balanced and unbiased.
MSM must cease their practice of continually downplaying issues of grave concern to the reading public and their lack of transparency in reporting (or omitting to report) national scandals and revelations of high-level corruption.
We are also concerned for our friends in journalism. We often hear from them of their frustrations in having their reports edited to a point where fact becomes displaced by fiction. This must stop; professionalism must prevail.
Readers pay good, hard-earned money to receive honest news reporting. They should not be duped into settling for less.
Our concerns on elections coverage
Given that the next general elections are expected to be held very soon, our ‘Boycott the Newspapers!’ campaign is imperative if Malaysia is going to have any chance of a cleaner poll. As the Bersih manifesto for electoral reform clearly states, we urgently need a free media and fair access for opposing views.
MSM presently are neither free nor fair.
What history has shown is that MSM have always had a field day disseminating falsehood to Malaysian voters because of the uneven playing field and public space restrictions imposed by the incumbency who are the media owners or whose owners are closely affiliated to the ruling parties. The recent acquisition of Nexnews shares in The Sun and The Edge by tycoon Vincent Tan reinforces the nexus between political and corporate interests.
Yesterday evening, we launched an online signature campaign calling for a boycott of the MSM. The petition is a vehicle for ordinary Malaysians to put on record that they do not condone the duplicity of MSM pretending to speak as vox populi and the patent lies that they print. The petition can be viewed at http://www.petitiononline.com/hartal/petition.html
Today, we call on all Malaysians to join us to make every Tuesday a ‘Paper-Free Tuesday’. Let this be the start. We hope that MSM will get the message and if they do not, we will have to give some thought to the other days in the week.
Currently, MSM spindoctoring is going into overdrive on the authorities’ perennial tried-and-tested track of communalism, misrepresentation and fear-mongering. To counter their deliberate inaccuracy, we shall put together a brief summary of ‘alternative news’ for our ‘Balik Kampung Bawa Berita Benar’. It is an experimental initiative to be picked up at The People’s Parliament shortly.
The People’s Parliament holds that MSM are now hardly voices of the people but rather mouthpieces of the government. If Malaysia is to see any change at all, the rakyat must know the truth and this truth is unfortunately not forthcoming from MSM.
We hold that a boycott of local newspapers is one way we can check the rot in our country and a means for civil society to take constructive action. Malaysia deserves a free press.
The People’s Parliament
Hartal MSM committee
28 Jan 2008