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Sandra Rajoo brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).
REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”
Blame NST if international relations between Malaysia and Australia are strained
When the master says ‘Jump’, an obedient servant asks ‘How high?’ But in the case of UMNO-controlled New Straits Times (NST), the obeisance became ‘How low?”. NST stooped to a new low last week in its blatant misrepresentation of the views of Australian senator Nicholas Xenophon.
Xenophon was part of an independent seven-member team overseeing Bersih 3.0. NST boldly attributed anti-Islamic sentiments to the gentleman in an apparent attempt to discredit him. Unfortunately for NST, the words in question were uttered in the Australian parliament, and the Hansard clearly records that Xenophon said, “Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”
The paper later released an apology and retraction, but the damage to good relations between countries and to its own already tattered reputation is severe. We find it impossible to believe that the replacement of ‘Scientology’ with ‘Islam’ in the NST article is an honest mistake. NST may think it has scored some brownie points with its bosses but such barefaced lies usually have a way of coming back to bite you later.
Astro is just as guilty
Astro also seem to be afflicted by the same lack of professionalism disease. International news networks Al Jazeera and BBC filed complaints over the manner in which their YouTube videos and news reports on Bersih 3.0 were doctored on Astro. Quite an irony considering Astro recently won the 2012 Putra Brand of the Year award. Its unethical action brings into question the validity of the award.
Blacking out the truth in order to serve political masters
Blurring the line between truth and lie, substituting fact with fiction are not the only things mainstream media are good at; blacking out facts and reality is another speciality. There was no coverage of innocent victims’ accounts of police aggression during Bersih 3.0, as well as police officers’ harassment and violent assault on journalists, some of whom were from the mainstream media. The Star and New Straits Times ran riot with accounts of violent behaviour from some demonstrators, complete with expressions of horror, but conveniently ‘forgot’ to publish accounts of the brutality perpetrated by law enforcers on members of their own profession who were just doing their jobs.
Malaysian media civil society organisations came out to condemn police brutality and listed the affected journalists: 1) Radzi Razak, from theSun, 2) Arif Kartono, a photographer with Malay Mail, 3) Wong Onn Kin, a photographer with Guang Ming Daily, 4) Koh Jun Lin, a photojournalist with Malaysiakini, 5) P. Malayandy, a photographer with Makkal Osai, 6) Al Jazeera correspondent Harry Fawcett, 7) Huang An Jian, a photographer with Guang Ming Daily, 8) Kenny Lew, Channel News Asia video cameraperson, 9) Chen Shaua Fui, assistant editor of Merdeka Review, 10) Lisa J Ariffin, a journalist with Malaysian Insider, 11) P Nathan, a photographer from The Star,
Hooligan-like behaviour exhibited by thugs is not surprising because, well, they are thugs. So what conclusion can we draw when the police act the same way?
Two issues of nuclear proportions
Not surprisingly, mainstream media have also blacked out citizens’ concerns about Lynas, the potentially dangerous rare earth plant in Gebeng, Pahang. Citizens’ arguments on the danger of rare earths processing, cutting corners and radioactive waste seeping into the water system etc. are given a wide berth. More coverage is instead given to Lynas’ views.
The public are also probably not aware that the government plans to build ‘two units of nuclear power plants’ to develop nuclear energy by 2014. A coalition of NGOs called Malaysian Coalition Against Nuclear (MyCAN) started an online public petition objecting to this plan to develop nuclear energy.
The Scorpene has resurfaced
Another issue kept out of mainstream media and which captured the nation’s imagination a few years back, may not remain submerged for long now that French prosecutors have jumped into the investigation. The cold, hard facts of Malaysia’s purchase of two scorpene submarines in 2002 from French shipmaker DCN were splattered all over online media, but were whitewashed in the mainstream media.
NGO Suaram’s perseverance to get to the bottom of the corruption that led to billions of ringgit lost and the murder of a Mongolian translator has to be commended. As co-operation from Malaysian authorities has not been forthcoming, Suaram lodged a complaint with the French courts. The latest that has emerged is that, in the said purchase, DCN allegedly paid ‘114 million euros in defence kickbacks to Perimekar’, a company owned by Najib’s political analyst and associate, Razak Baginda. A convoluted money trail aimed at covering the tracks of the perpetrators has been uncovered. A matter of public interest like this should be in all the media.
For those who thought they got away with murder (literally and figuratively), beware the deadly ‘scorpene’ sting. It is almost always fatal.
Journalistic principles at the mercy of politics
We are seeing more and more incidents of journalistic principles and ethics being compromised in the name of politics. The manipulation and doctoring of news reports can only cement the perception of mainstream media as unethical and unscrupulous organisations. Once established as unprincipled, redemption will be difficult. Regaining the trust of the public in the future will be tricky. Remember the boy who cried ‘wolf’? Balanced and accurate reporting is what the public wants from all media. Let integrity, reliability and veracity return to journalism.
Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!
Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.
(Featured image accompanying article on the main page courtesy of Ed Siasoco, source: http://bit.ly/JlaIfp)