This post is lengthy as I feel obliged to try and justify that which I now ask you to do.
Received the following 2 sms’s yesterday :
‘Dear M’sians. It’s time to reform media. The local media needs 2 b fair in reporting news to all m’sians. Pls ‘BUY NO PAPERS, READ NO LIES’. The NST, STAR, B. Harian, Utusan, chinese daily, Tamil Nesan & even TheSUN now r feeding lies & garbage 2 M’sians. They cant accept the elections defeat gracefully & r attacking opposition. There r bigger problems brewing in UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan & PPP but no mention. LET’S STOP BUYING THESE PAPERS 4 1 WEEK FR Mon, 17/3 till 23’
‘Dear Malaysians, calling for ur action to show our ‘people’s power’ again! BOYCOTT THE NEWSPAPERS, READ NO LIES! Stop buying NST, THE STAR, Berita Harian, Utusan M’sia from Monday 17 March for 1 mth. They are feeding us with lies! BN could not accept d defeat & r now attacking the opposition & the new state gvnmts. There r bigger problems brewing in UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan & PPP but not featured in the newspapers. Switch to Msiakini, M’siatoday, BBC, CNN, AlJazeera for real news. We M’sians r matured now. Pls send msg to 10 ppl u know NOW’
I want to firstly say a big thank you to Malaysiakini for making its internet news portal accessible for free in the run-up to the elections and for several days after.
I hope that this made it possible for many of you who are not subscribed to Malaysiakini to note the difference between Malaysiakini and the mainstream media (MSM) reporting.
Who can forget the telling interview conducted by Malaysiakini with Chew Mei Fun and Tony Pua?
Why did MSM not conduct similar initiatives for the benefit of their readers?
Was newsreporting by MSM in the run-up to polling day fair? Was it even-handed in reporting on BN and on our Barisan Rakyat issues, candidates and ceramahs?
Aliran has done an excellent analysis of the MSM reporting in the run-up to the elections. You can read that in full HERE.
Let me quote excerpts from Aliran :
On the eve of polling day (7 March 2008), Malaysian newspapers stepped up the number of advertisements to “persuade” voters to cast their ballots for Barisan Nasional. Although the reporting trend has generally been in favour of the BN, the ads have also been generously displayed.
theSun beat its English-language rivals to publish BN ads in 14 pages, up 80 per cent from earlier in the week. The NST and The Star increased the pages for the advertisements by 77 per cent and 71.4 per cent respectively, while Utusan Malaysia, a broadsheet upped the ads from one page on Monday to five full pages on polling eve. These three papers have higher story counts that are pro-BN in general. Only theSun published a one-page ad for the DAP on page 38 with its slogan `Just Change It’.
The ad campaign is further supported by full-page messages, in colour, from different ministries and agencies, such as the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, Mampu and the Employees Provident Fund, during the election campaign period,. Special pullouts have also been published focusing on the performance of government agencies like Felda, Felcra and Permodalan Nasional Berhad.
Midnight on the eve of polling is not necessarily the end of the campaign, as we know, BN “messages” flow through the media even during the non-election period.
Polling day is tomorrow. Let’s look at how the New Straits Times (NST) online covered the campaigning in the past three days–5, 6 and 7 of March. As the tables below indicate, the paper remains ever faithful to Barisan Nasional as its mouthpiece.
5 March 6 March 7 March All 3 days
BN (Focus) 19 (41%) 16 (37%) 11 (30%) 46 (37%)
BN (Positive) 13 (28%) 9 (21%) 11 (30%) 33 (26%)
BN (Negative) 0 ( 0%) 1 ( 2%) 0 ( 0%) 1 (0.1%)
NEUTRAL 3 ( 7%) 3 ( 7%) 4 (11%) 10 (7.9%)
BALANCED 2 (4.5%) 3 ( 7%) 3 ( 8%) 8 (6.3%)
OPP (Focus) 1 ( 2%) 5 (12%) 2 ( 5%) 8 (6.3%)
OPP (Positive) 2 (4.5%) 1 ( 2%) 0 ( 0%) 3 (2.4%)
OPP (Negative) 6 (13%) 5 (12%) 6 (16%) 17 (14%)
TOTAL 46 (100%) 43(100%) 37(100%) 126 (100%)
5 March – 1 BN (Positive) & 1 Balanced
6 March – 1 Balanced, 2 Neutral & 2 OP (Negative)
7 March – 4 BN (Positive) and 1 Balanced
Out of a total of 126 news items for the three days, a whopping 79 or 63% of them were focused and positive on BN. Only one news item could be considered as negative towards BN. On the other hand, only about 28 items were about the opposition (OPP). And more than half or 17 of them were negative on them. Meanwhile, only eight news item could be considered as having a balanced coverage and 10 are neutral election related items.
Dare we hope, as some are hoping, that the MSM will now begin the process of reform to be more responsible in its newsreporting?
Some seem to think that there appears to be a slight shift in the reporting, veering to a more balanced presentation of facts and issues confronting the nation.
Star’s Wong Chun Wai, in his ‘Denial syndrome must end’ last Friday had this to say :
Two news websites emerged during the elections, MalaysiaVotes.com and MalaysianInsider.com, but being newcomers, it was difficult for them to compete with the more established Malaysiakini.
The websites of mainstream newspapers had an even tougher time, being overly cautious on accuracy, particularly on results, and not wanting to rely too much on unconfirmed news.
In the end, the alternative media scored better as it did not have to worry too much about accuracy. An example was the newsflash on the purported 14 unopened ballot boxes in Lembah Pantai, implying there would be rigging. The report turned out to be false.
But this election was a wake-up call to the nation, not just to the leadership, but also the media. A serious and honest soul searching is required to truly feel the pulse of Malaysians. The mainstream newspapers have to learn, quickly, or face being abandoned by their readers.
As Bernama general manager Datuk Azman Ujang rightly said, Malaysians have spoken loud and clear, “not only on what kind of government they want but also the kind of media they prefer”
…The winds of change have swept through Malaysia and the fact is everyone, especially the media, has to wake up to that reality. It should be accepted, not resisted. The denial syndrome has to stop.
Isn’t that rich?
Poor MSM could not keep up with the prolific internet alternative media newsreporting because the former were concerned with factual accuracy whilst the latter threw caution to the wind!
And what denial syndrome is this Wong fella speaking of?
As far as I know, the greater number of people who work in the MSM and pretend to uphold the highest standards of journalism have sold their souls, and the good people of this nation, for a few miserable ringgit and titles, to boot!
Really, then, do we discern any real change or shift in MSM reporting? From half-truths to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Both before and after the elections, BN had gone out of their way to play the race and religion card.
BN cannot effectively do this without the help of the MSM.
Please do not delude yourself into thinking that MSM is truly repentant or remorseful for their unholy assistance rendered to BN in trying to drum up fear amongst the Malays about the denial of their rights and the non-Malays about the advent of a PAS-led Islamic state regime.
On 14th March, Malaysiakini reported Zaid Ibrahim as hitting out at both BN and opposition politicians as well as the MSM for stirring up racial sentiments – zaid_-stop-pitting-malays-against-non-malays.pdf
This is what Zaid said of the MSM :
And the mainstream media are not helping matters either when they say that the Malays have lost the ‘Ketuanan Melayu’.
Then on 15th March, this is what YB Jeff Ooi said in his blog
All leaders in states not controlled by Umno dominance must be careful.
In the aftermath of the Abdullah debacle in GE2008, Utusan Malaysia and Bernama became the two media organisations that stoked political hatred, pitting Malays against non-Malays.
Both the media groups framed Lim Guan Eng for a mention of May 13, which the new Penang CM didn’t say. I knew as I stood behind him during the press interview. And the CM’s press secretary confirmed the same.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that DSAI had slammed BN for stoking racial tension – anwar-slams-govt-for-stoking-racial-tension.pdf
I quote DSAI :
I am… deeply concerned with the attempt being made by certain elements to stoke the flames of racial hatred” in the aftermath of the elections. This vicious campaign is being orchestrated by a small number of very wealthy Malays and Umno leaders who are themselves guilty of squandering and abusing the NEP.These people are now using the Umno and government-controlled media to incite fears among the Malays and deflect attention away from their electoral defeat and from Umno’s historic failures to address the needs of all Malaysians including the poor and marginalised Malays.
Are the MSM heeding?
Yesterday, Star reported under the heading ‘PAS certain it can set up Islamic federal govt soon’ that PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa said that ‘PAS is now confident that it can soon set up an Islamic form of government at the federal level, which it claims is gaining more acceptance, especially with non-Muslims, following the good showing of the Opposition coalition in last weekend’s elections’.
All yesterday, I was getting sms’s, e-mails and phone calls asking if there was truth in this.
I made several attempts to get in touch with Husam’s PA.
Then last night, at 8.50pm, on Star online, this correction first appeared.
PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa has clarified that his statement on the party taking over the Government at the federal level was taken out of context.
“I mentioned that we are hopeful of taking 30 more parliamentary seats to win power and not about forming an Islamic Government,” he said.
Husam urged the mass media to be careful in its reporting to avoid antagonising anyone unnecessarily.
This morning’s hard copy of the Star and its updated online report of this correction now do not bear Husam’s urging to the MSM to be careful.
Star put words into his mouth in the first report and yet, almost as an afterthought, have dropped what he actually said in the final correction!
Anil Netto, in a posting in his blog entitled ‘Mainstream media trying to stir discord among opposition parties‘, refers to an NST report of DAP’s reaction to the Star report of what Husam is supposed to have said, and says this of MSM : ‘ They are at it again, playing the same old game. This time they are trying to fracture the opposition parties’ unity of purpose and the stability of the new state governments they control’.
On 8th March, the sheer will of the rakyat drove a wind of change through this nation.
We have voted into Parliament and state assemblies good men and women upon whom the fate of this nation rests.
These men and women are now under siege by BN and their hatchet men in the MSM.
Tomorrow is Tuesday. Our Hartal MSM committee have previously asked that you make Tuesdays paper-free.
This is now not enough.
I urge that if we do not see an immediate end to the shameless attacks on our YBs, that we take the word out far and wide that we, the rakyat will, from 24th March, 2008, commence a boycott of all the MSM for a period of one week.
I urge that if at the end of that one-week boycott, the MSM continues to unjustifiably attack our YBs, we resume our boycott of the MSM for a longer and more sustained period.
This will, no doubt, cause much inconvenience for a great many of us.
The change that we seek to bring about in our country cannot be attained without some sacrifice. If we will not make that sacrifice, who will?
If you will help us in this initiative, I ask that you help to disseminate word of this initiative to your friends and relatives who may not have access to internet.
Use the sms.
We expect much of our YBs.
They, in turn are entitled to turn to us in their moment of need.
That time is now.