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This post first appeared on popular local blog about journalism, media, politics and current affairs entitled Uppercaise.
Malaysiakini, the Centre for Investigative Journalism, the Loyar Burok law activists, and the Merdeka Centre opinion pollsters were among 11 organisations attacked by the New Straits Times today in a thinly disguised political smear, which accused them of being part of an anti-government coup plot.
The attack was made in a sensational front-page lead under the headline “Plot to Destabilise Govt”.
But the report, under the byline of NST Putrajaya bureau chief Farrah Naz Karim*, provides no facts on any such plot and instead relies on second-hand information to make a tenuous link between the pro-democracy activities and the downfall of dictatorships in African and Middle Eastern countries.
(A story on almost the same lines, and against the same organisations, was carried in the English-language press, probably also by the NST a year or two ago, but I cannot find the link now. Please post it below if you find it. Thanks.)
The NST story provides no details of any activities by the organisations that amount to a coup plot and relies only on a list of figures — supplied by anonymous sources — to show funding from the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and from the George Soros-backed Open Society Institute.
Two other US-based organisations are also named in the report: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). (On Wednesday, the two organisations presented Burmese democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi with a freedom award.)
(Refer to below) NST names Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s US supporters in Malaysian coup plot.
None of the Malaysian organisations were quoted for their side of the story.
Instead, the story uses a Berita Harian interview with formerly well-respected political scientist Chandra Muzaffar to make a suggestive link between the NED, democracy activism, and popular uprisings in Arab countries which saw the downfall of dictatorships and tyranny.
The argument is so simplistic and so tenuous that it’s laughable. It goes like this:
It’s not only simplistic, it’s stupid, but you can rely on pro-Umno bloggers and the pro-Umno establishment to use these “facts” to hammer away at pro-democracy movements.
(If Umno thinks pro-democracy movements are evil, then it seems fair to say that Umno is anti-democracy and against democratic peopple’s movements.)
There’s little doubt that the new smear campaign against Malaysiakini, CIJ, Loyar Burok and Merdeka Centre is linked to the current campaign against the human rights organisation Suaram.
Umno-headed government ministries have been making a open attempt to silence Suaram, which has been at the forefront of keeping alive the Scorpene and Altantuya scandals and helping in a French judicial inquiry, in which subpoenas could be issued to the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister.
Chandra Muzaffar, a founder of Aliran, was once a highly-regarded champion of human rights and democracy but has espoused pro-establishment views since a falling out with Anwar Ibrahim and Parti Keadilan Nasional.
Farrah Naz Karim is an award-winning journalist — she won the Best Journalist award from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission last year, receiving a plaque and a certificate from MACC chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed at the agency’s media appreciation.
(* I wonder if she had any choice in how the story was done or how it was handled.)
Read plot to destabilise govt (New Straits Times) here
Umno and NST argument: if you promote Aung Sang Suu Kyi, you must be trying to topple the Malaysian government and you are promoting a revolution. Correct?
Is that Umno talking, or the voice of “The Devil” (a.k.a. Mahathir Mohd Kutty who, obviously, is no fan of democracy)?