Rabu, 5 Jun 2013

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Understanding the Media Trust Deficit

Posted: 04 Jun 2013 06:23 PM PDT


Mainstream-media journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were supposed to do in the first place.  

Stephen Doss

Its 2013, there is no more sense in segregating media in Malaysia as mainstream media and alternative media or new media anymore; all the previously known big traditional media such as TV3, Astro, Utusan Malaysia, The Star, The Malay Mail, etc have their own online presence.

All of them have twitter accounts, FB pages and websites. The only differences are those who do not have licenses to operate electronic/print media have only the internet to rely on. Thus as you can see it's far from a level playing field.

The traditional media is now competing with everyone else online, but those who started life online are not so lucky; they are handicapped for they do not have the means to challenge the traditional media boys.

And yet, after the last general elections a number of politicians from the ruling party claimed they were defeated by  the social media, and till today there is much concern over a yet to be proven "Red Bean Army" which Utusan Malaysia claims is an army of cybertroopers funded by the DAP.

In Malaysia, there is more than ample proof that most mainstream media are owned by political parties belonging to the Barisan Nasional either directly or indirectly. And as mentioned earlier, these media organizations now have a huge presence online too. Add to this, the many cybertroopers in the employ of UMNO like the Unit Media Baru of Pemuda UMNO and the many pro-UMNO bloggers, these added firepower should have made the BN invincible and all powerful in terms of influencing the voters.

And yet, politicians aligned to the BN are complaining that they lost the social media war - what happened?

Are media strategists of the mainstream media so inept at what they are supposed to do best?

To my mind there are probably 4 reasons why the mainstream media has lost the plot, leading to a trust deficit, the reason why readers no longer believe in what the government has to say via these media organizations.   

One, Self-Censorship by journalists

Journalists today have become adept at second guessing what their editors or company owners are comfortable with as news. Journalists are known to purposely avoid newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of their stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Journalists also tend to avoid newsworthy stories if the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization's owners or parent company.

Why do journalists self-censor? As Mark Twain once said, "We write frankly and freely but then we 'modify' before we print." Why do we modify the free and frank expression of journalistic truth? We do it out of fear: Fear for our jobs. Fear that we'll catch hell for it. Fear that someone will seek to hang a sign around our neck that says, in essence, "Unpatriotic."

Mainstream-media journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were supposed to do in the first place.  

Two, Censorship by Editors

When journalists are moved enough by their conscience to want to speak out about an issue, they are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story. Investigative journalists say newsworthy stories are often or sometimes ignored because they conflict with the news organization's economic interests. There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups. The most important being money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power. Some media organizations go to great lengths to please their sponsors. Some media companies make a lot of money from the government, and so don't want to rock the boat. 

Three, Access

It is common knowledge that journalists from the mainstream media have access to those who walk the corridors of power, and they are willing to do almost anything to continue with that privileged relationship. Not only does this relationship makes for easier reporting, hassle free and unlikely to get the journalist into any real trouble, it can be also quite lucrative.   

Four, Censorship by the Government

Finally, as the media's own interest is survival, it is dependent on the government for its continued existence. The government has every opportunity to exert tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way.

If they criticize those in power, they may be smeared by the government and targeted for arrest.

In Part 2, I will write about what the Barisan Nasional-led government needs to do to reduce that deficit of trust, painful as it may be and possibly win the battle for the hearts and minds of Malaysians.

I leave you with two interesting quotes to ponder;

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent"
- Thomas Jefferson

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Stephen Doss is a social activist and political observer. He is currently the Advisor to the Social Media Chambers of Malaysia. He can be found on twitter @stephendoss


Form a Barisan-Pakatan government of national reconciliation

Posted: 04 Jun 2013 12:43 PM PDT


Assuming Pakatan Rakyat is able to topple the BN government via street violence, wouldn't the leaders and supporters of BN retaliate in the same fashion? 

Francis Paul Siah

Today is June 5. It's exactly a month after the May 5 general election, widely touted as the mother of all elections.

Over the past month after GE13, the nation has been besieged with negatives. Nothing seems to be moving or has moved in the right direction. In a nutshell, nothing positive has been achieved.

We could have done so much in one month but we chose to waste it just because things did not turn out the way we wanted.

Yes, we are now a nation badly divided. Politics has torn the people asunder in a way never witnessed before.

GE 13 did not bring about the changes for the better we all seek. Instead, it is slowly destroying everything that is good about the country.

Is there anything good left about politics in this country, given the disappointing and worrying events of the past 30 days? Honestly, I can't think of any.

Over the past month, we could not sit down and talk anymore. We had to use the media to get our messages across or to badmouth each other.

Worse, we now seem to be a people who enjoy taking part in street demonstrations and public protests. Why, do we seriously believe we can create an 'Arab Spring' here in Malaysia? Come on, people. Let's get real. We are still Malaysians.

Assuming Pakatan Rakyat is able to topple the BN government via street violence, wouldn't the leaders and supporters of BN retaliate in the same fashion?

So we will have more demonstrations and street protests. If we continue to go down that alley, where do you think that route will lead us?

What has become of us, Malaysians? Shouldn't we be ashamed of ourselves? Our behaviour of late is not something we can feel proud about.

True, Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan colleagues have every right to challenge the election results and express their dissatisfaction over electoral discrepancies. 

But I honestly do not think going to the streets will resolve anything.

Najib Razak committed a mortal sin with his "Chinese tsunami" statement soon after the elections. It was something painfully sensitive coming from a prime minister who is of a different race.

The PM should have just accepted that the Chinese voters were not supportive of his BN government but preferred Pakatan. Why must that be so hard to swallow?

Najib has erred and I like to believe that he has realised his mistake for he has not repeated it. That is well and good.

Like many Malaysians, I made a choice during GE 13. My conscientious decision was to campaign for good men and women to helm a caring, responsible and transparent government that will lead the people and nation towards greater heights.

I had gone on public record with a press statement five days before the May 5 polling day urging my fellow Sarawakians to bury Sarawak BN so that corruption, cronyism and nepotism could also go under as well.

But the May 5 results were a disappointment – to both sides. While Pakatan failed to make it to Putrajaya, BN suffered its worst defeat ever. But the ruling coalition still managed enough seats to retain power.

So where do we go from here? Do we allow the two political divides to continue their never-ending squabbles and bickering? Or do we tell them "enough is enough, we elected you guys to work and govern the country; please get down to the job".

We, the majority of Malaysians who are not politicians, must take a stand and make a decision.

This is mine and I would like to share it with all my fellow Malaysians.

At a time like this, I reckon I have to trust Najib Razak and Anwar Ibrahim to do the right things for the people and nation. These are the two political leaders who matter in Malaysia today. I expect them to be around the next 10 years at least.

I don't have a choice really. I'm stuck with them. So it only makes sense to ensure that they give their best to the country over the next decade.

Together, let us, the people of Malaysia, help them to focus on the tasks and responsibilities at hand.

We can do that by not partaking anymore in anything negative, either through words or deeds, coming from both sides similar to those of the past one month.

We must demand that they and their cohorts stop their public mudslinging, their accusations and counter-accusations at once. We must let them know that we have enough of their nonsense over the past month. 

I want to believe that both Najib and Anwar mean well and that they want the best for the nation.

Both men have come a long way in politics and they knew each other only too well. They should know what each is capable of, being the political animals that they are.  

Now, they must do what must be done quickly on two fronts. First, restore national understanding and help promote national unity using the resources they have at hand. Two, get rid of the animosity and antagonism between their parties that have poisoned the political atmosphere for so long. With their supreme party positions, they could easily lead the way by example on this front.   

Today, let me urge these two loyal and patriotic sons of Malaysia to put their differences aside and work together. This is what Malaysians want.

Sit down as a team and seriously start thinking about joining forces to form a "Government of National Reconciliation".

Let's make one important thing clear. This is not about PR joining BN. This is about PR and BN coming together to form a new coalition government as partners.

I sincerely appeal to Najib and Anwar to lead Malaysians on the journey towards national reconciliation. Let the "Politics of Conscience" be the guiding light and cast aside the politics of pride and ego.

The details and intricacies of the new government such as the cabinet appointments can be sorted out but at the outset, perhaps key positions could be organised in this manner.

Najib is to remain as prime minister with Anwar as senior minister, holding the finance portfolio. Muhyideen Yassin is DPM 1 and can continue at education. Lim Kit Siang is DPM 2 and also anti-corruption minister. DPM 3 is Hadi Awang who is also in charge of Islamic affairs.

The other portfolios will be organised in a manner that where a BN representative is a minister, the deputy will be from PR. The same guideline follows vice versa.

The 'Politics of Conscience' charter which I propose will get rid of emotional charges entwined within the guilt of association or trial of accusation that have been prevalent among the two opposing parties.

It will also prove that our political leaders in BN and PR have not lost all sense of reasonableness and that they can have honest differences of opinions without being charged with mental deficiency or treason.

I doubt we could go far wrong if the process is guided by the principles of  parliamentary democracy, constitutional monarchy, diversity, upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

Let all those who have been elected to public office from both sides wake up and realise how imperative it is for them to get rid of adversarial politics, transcend partisan loyalties and focus on where it matters most – the well-being of the people and nation.

This is my sincere and earnest appeal to Najib and Anwar to show and lead the way towards the change and transformation that we, Malaysians, had hoped and prayed for.

Finally, let me end this with a few lines from this hymn, which I feel personally gratifying that it's titled "Prayer of St Francis".

"Make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

And where there is sadness, joy."

God bless Malaysians and Malaysia. Let's return to the way we used to be.


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS)


The Government Will Shoot Themselves In The Foot If They Censor The Online Media

Posted: 04 Jun 2013 12:08 PM PDT


If the reformation Najib is spewing every week is anything, then he should heed the advice of people, not around him, but those who did not vote for him.

Jay Jay Denis, Student  

When THAT line is crossed too often, there will come a time when it will cease to exist and it will become second nature for 'trampling' to take place. This is in light of Minister of Communications and Multimedia's comments yesterday on the possibility of the government mimicking Singapore to put a blanket on news portals.

Just last week, opposition-based news-weeklys were snapped up and later banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by none other than the ever-brilliant and gung-ho Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The online media then, seems to have been the only alternative for people to get news from what may seem unbiased, if anything. The printed media is brilliant where you have newspapers getting away with 'daylight lies' and at times, it does feel as though they do not have proof-readers, looking to jump the gun more often than not.

According to the Printing Presses and Publications Act, "The Minister may in his absolute discretion grant or refuse any application for such licence or may at any time revoke or suspend such licence for any period he considers desirable." What this actually means is there is no consistency regarding decisions made by that ministry as at any given time, the decision is up to his or her discretion.

On September 18th 2011, PM Najib Razak stated that he intends to make Malaysia the world's best democracy. A year and a half later, people can judge for themselves on whether his statement was all talk and no walk or otherwise.

 'Reporters Without Borders' stated this year that Malaysia is ranked 145th out of 179 countries in terms of Press Freedom. http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=classement&id_rubrique=1054. Being ranked behind countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Libya is not something to be extremely proud of, with all due respect. This points to the influence of the powers that be on the now nearly defunct mainstream media, with the online media taking its place. The propaganda spewed by the likes of infamous dailies, 'The Star' and 'Utusan' have long been way out of line. Such a thing has forced the hands of citizens to hunt for an alternative to get an aspect of what is actually happening.

Nonetheless, social media has also played a great deal in delivering news and the virality it possesses is definitely greater than that of the printed media. Having said that, here we have a possibility that the government is looking to control the news portals that many Malaysians have grown accustomed to when they start their day. It is more likely that people turn on their nifty little gadgets in the morning to get a grasp of the news rather than heading to a newsstand to get a copy of the government-controlled newspaper.

But hang on a minute. That might now be close to impossible if a plan is in the pipeline to put a straight-jacket on people to get access to news which concerns them. The thought of relying on the television, radio and newspapers not only lend the idea of going back to the stone-age but being lied to again? In contemporary period, not many people are going to be at all pleased with such a move by a government who doesn't have the majority support of its people.

Ahmad Shabery Cheek should think very carefully as he's walking a tight rope here. If he leaves it how it is, UMNO/BN will still be lashed by the people if it does not improve. Impose a draconian law and the people will definitely take them to the cleaners. If the reformation Najib is spewing every week is anything, then he should heed the advice of people, not around him, but those who did not vote for him. It may sound ridiculous but Najib has work to do to win back the support from the people because I'm not sure as to how much support he has inside UMNO.

Martin Luther King went around saying that an unjust law is no law at all, started by St Augustine of course. Suffocating people by denying them access to online news portals is akin to shooting themselves in the foot. If the government does not want the Merdeka Square to turn into a Speaker's Corner, listen to the people. Malaysians are peace-loving people.


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