|May 10, 08 11:00pm|
Below is the keynote speech delivered by Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin at the National Union of Journalists forum ‘General Elections 2008: Press Freedom’, organised to commemorate the May 3 World Press Freedom Day.
Someone related to me this description of Malaysian journalists. In the first few years of their career, they will be faithfully taking down notes in an interview. As the career wore on, both reporter and respondent would talk as much. By the third stage of an exhaustive career, the reporter would have stored up a reservoir of wisdom and views.
So when he or she goes out for an interview, the respondent whose thoughts are supposed to be sought, would hardly be able to speak. The reporter will do all the talking. This is the point when they start writing analyses and commentaries. This does not make them any less disillusioned, I am told, because reporters are desperately disappointed at being paid too little money to do too much work throughout their careers.
I must declare an inherent interest in journalism. My first grown up job was as an editorial intern for a UK magazine that calls itself a newspaper. I spent my first few months in London editing and fact checking stories that came in from correspondents around the world before being sent to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan for a month to try and get a story from the frontlines. I am still uncertain whether my then employers actually wanted a story from Kabul or just wanted to get rid of me without any trace.
Back home at the height of the previous political exertions I co-hosted a television talk show called ‘Dateline Malaysia’. It did not last. The conversations that went on the show were deemed rather combustible for our faint hearts at the time. My co-host for the programme, as most of you know, does not suffer from a faint heart and is now a second-term member of the cabinet.
Since then, the Cyber Revolution has transformed the intensity of the journalistic word. It has empowered all comers. Not a soul can be conceivably disenfranchised from participating, or spared the wrath and scrutiny that is Internet journalism. I should know. One blogger described the current administration as ‘Kerajaan Anak Beranak’ on national television last Sunday. Many other punches have landed on markedly lower points of my anatomy. In fact I have read rather interesting comments on me in the wider media. I would like to think this has given me a modicum of legitimacy to be discussing journalism with you today.
I’m a 24-hour consumer of news
For almost a decade since I took this plunge into the realm of politics, I have come into contact with a range of personalities who inhabit the wide world of journalism. It is easy for me to develop a sense of affinity with journalist friends. They are as intense, driven and fiery. In my role as the deputy leader of Umno Youth, I have received frank views and opinions from members of the media. These views provide me with a different perspective – a different take on issues – and it’s a perspective which I hold in high regard.
Now as a freshman parliamentarian in a transformed political and media landscape, I hope to continue this quest of deepening my relationship with and understanding of journalism and the media. I shall consult widely to firm up some ideas which I could raise in Parliament on behalf of the media fraternity. I am thrilled to be meeting you today so that I could properly seek your guidance and consent to represent some of your thoughts and views in Parliament.
It shall be an enlightening pursuit, in part, because non-media people are unfailingly ambivalent about the workings of the media. Everyone complaints and fusses about the media but in the open and on the quiet they court journalists. Your daily editorial decisions used to be contentious and came about after much debate and deliberation; now what you put up as newsbreaks on the Net or as crawlers on TV creates the news cycle for tomorrow. Within an hour or less, the battle for public opinion is won or lost. Within minutes, I am the big, bad wolf and my political opponents magical tooth fairies.
I am a 24-hour consumer of news. Reporters say they could see me from the press gallery browsing on-line news in Parliament – which is actually contravening the Standing Orders. I am increasingly convinced that news organisations with the strongest talent-pool, supporting resources including training, and the most experienced writers will get the most hits in the long run for the simple reason that such news operations would be able to assign more reporters to cover a story and top writers to comment on an issue.
Reporters constantly engage political leaders, administrators and intellectuals in substantive discussions on important topics. The reporter’s depth or lack or it, would colour the tone of pieces they file. It is a given, therefore, that the more learned and articulate reporters with unending supplies of stamina will be more effective.
The combined on-line might of Utusan Malaysia, The Star, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and The Edge is frightful. These news organizations should be at the forefront of online news with their brand names, financial resources and critical mass of offline readers. Yet, we know that it is the so-called alternative Internet media that dictates the online news cycle.
RPK’s arrest will embolden online media
I think the election result of March 8 has accentuated this development. I think RPK (Raja Petra Kamarudin) being charged under the Sedition Act will embolden the alternative Internet media to carve out greater space for themselves in the Malaysian public consciousness. I think that it may be difficult for the so-called mainstream media to keep pace in terms of news value – regardless of the veracity of the reporting – under current circumstances.
All of this is happening in an environment of relative openness. While institutional restrictions still remain, it has been the policy of the present administration to allow for more space and more latitude as far as the press is concerned. This, I believe, has been largely welcomed. But today, the issue is one of credibility, or rather who appears to be more credible and independent.
Which brings us to the fundamental question for the media in Malaysia today: What kind of journalistic standards and ethics should we expect in the aftermath of the March 8th general election? There is an apparent state of flux which is why I believe a great-deal of soul-searching is necessary.
I shall cite an example. Someone from a Malay daily came up with this commentary-cum-poser the other day. I quote. “We are career journalists who are schooled in a tradition of being circumspect, only for us to hear all those emotive phrases on television.” This is again the reference to the ‘Blog’ programme on RTM1 where all sorts of accusations and allegations have been aired unplugged.
“Would we be able to get a fiery blogger to write for our newspaper, then?” he asked. I told him that I believed his daily subscribed to a set of convictions. It would, therefore, be fair to expect his newspaper to hold that line in its leading articles and editorials. Hardly any newspaper in the world has ever been conceived for the sole purpose of advancing the cause of journalism. It always carries with it a philosophy or ideology that guides its editing and reporting.
I told him as for the other aspects of his daily’s reporting, his editors should be free to decide including if they want to invite a fiery blogger to be a columnist. Apart from toeing the editorial line, a newspaper must always think about staying ahead of competitors in terms of readership and profitability.
Probably stepping out of party line
I have often wondered if we could ever see a neat demarcation of media publications and online news based on political persuasion – like the broadsheets and tabloids in the UK. This has become a possibility with Suara Keadilan securing a newspaper license. Hopefully, this will give them the burden of mainstream editorial responsibility just like the burden of political leadership they and their comrades carry in five states. It should make them more responsible.
At a time of reform being the all-purpose buzzword, what I really I wish to suggest today is for the media to move towards being independently regulated. Although I am not completely unsympathetic to the views of those who feel the present system of government regulation is necessary because of racial of religious sensitivities, I think that these concerns can still be addressed under independent regulation.
I think that politicians on both sides of the divide will protest against race hate and religious incitement from being published or aired. So, to me, in my infinite naiveté as a freshman MP, those very valid concerns are surmountable.
I hope that the media can take the lead in setting up some form of independent regulation, perhaps in the form of a Press Complaints Commission. I am happy to listen to counter suggestions since I am not too sure if there are at present internal means of addressing complaints and ethical issues with all kinds of grouses that one can expect from a more liberalized environment.
Let me give you an example of independent, or in this case self-regulation. In 2003, a bright New York Times reporter Jayson Blair had to leave after he was found to have fabricated facts and quotations in many news stories. After a rigorous internal investigation, the newspaper published a 14,000-word explanation of the episode on its front page and four full inside pages. The editor, Howell Raines, and his deputy also had to go.
The UK model of the Press Complaints Commission is an independent body that enforces the Code of Practices covering issues like accuracy of reporting, opportunity of aggrieved parties to reply, harassment by reporters and payment to criminals. We know of some American newspapers that appoint senior journalists as Public Editors who oversee the conduct of the newspaper which is also his or her employer.
I am sure you have your thoughts on how the role of the Home Ministry’s unit that supervises the reporting of sensitive issues and other licensing requirements could be taken over such a Commission. As I am sure all of you media practitioners are aware, this concept is not new. For example, the Swedish Press Council is over 85 years old. It is true that these are developed countries with mature democracies. But are we, too, not an almost developed country with an increasingly mature democracy?
I think we need to think through independent regulation carefully but positively. We can start by encouraging the home minister to abolish the annual KDN licensing requirement as he has announced. Next, the media – both mainstream and online – should strengthen its capacity building initiatives to ensure best reporting practices through rigorous training. We can then evolve and get into newer phases and experiments. We cannot, for example, rule out Governments of the future actually funding newspapers and have a council of eminent persons to appoint editors to run them.
Once we have thought through such a roadmap that is properly sequenced, that holds at its heart both freedom and responsibility in equal measure, I think we can and should repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act. We should not be afraid of this brave new world of journalism, but rather help strengthen it so that Malaysians will benefit from getting credible news everywhere – from the mainstream and otherstream media.
I may sound like I am stepping far beyond my party line. I probably am. But I have a personal reason for believing in these reforms. Much of what is known about me is a caricature conceived and disseminated in a medium that has become the entire truth for many Malaysians. Without these reforms the mainstream media may not be able to stem the crisis of credibility that we are witnessing today. Without these reforms truth is obscured and sentiment and innuendo reign supreme.
I do not profess to have the answers nor even to offer a thought starter. I just want to encourage you to talk about yourselves and your profession in the hope that your conversation can and will provide us with the solutions that still escape me.
Category Archives: Media Democracy
|RK Anand | Apr 17, 08 4:14pm
|An eerie silence enveloped the Makkal Osai office last night. Save for a few staff, the rest had returned home to ponder over their future.
The usually busy editorial floor was deserted when Malaysiakini visited the Tamil daily’s office in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur.
The daily was informed via a letter from the Home Ministry yesterday that its printing permit will not be reviewed. No reason was given.
While industry sources claimed that the move could be related to the daily providing extensive coverage to the opposition, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar today said Makkal Osai was punished for raising sensitive issues which can threaten racial harmony.
The newspaper is also noted for giving prominence to the Makkal Sakthi (People’s power) movement which was born out of the Nov 25 street rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
Sources claimed that Makkal Osai – which is closely linked to former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam – had ruffled feathers in Putrajaya by publishing a photograph of detained Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar in hospital.
Uthayakumar was among five Hindraf leaders detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on Dec 13.
When met, the daily’s staff expressed much anxiety over the situation. “Our future hangs in the balance,” they said.
Meanwhile, Makkal Osai general manager SM Periasamy said the staff were shocked when informed of the ministry’s decision.
However, he refused to speculate on why this happened.
“We were informed about the decision at about 12 noon by fax and a telephone call from the ministry.
“Immediately, I went to the office (ministry) to check, we were given this letter … I asked (the official) for the reasons, (he said) it is a decision by the ministry we cannot elaborate but you can appeal.”
Periasamy said the daily’s office has been inundated with calls from all over the country.
He also lamented that the ministry’s decision came at a time when Makkal Osai – which means ‘voice of the people’ – had become popular among the Indian community.
The general manager hoped that the government will take into consideration the plight of the staff involved and reconsider its decision.
On its news coverage, Periasamy said the daily focussed on issues related to the Indians.
“It can be opposition news. We are a commercial paper, so of course, we give prominence to Indian-based stories. So now with the opposition influencing the Indians more … we take it as news, we also carry a lot of other party news.”
Makkal Osai is expected to file an appeal today. The daily’s permit had expired on Oct 15 last year and it had submitted an application for renewal three months before that.
Periasamy said the daily has been operating on the understanding that the government was in the process of looking through the application.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar however denied that his decision was not related to Hindraf.
In a related development, several quarters including those from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition have voiced concern over the government’s decision.
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) executive director V Gayathry and Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) chairperson Wong Chin Huat.
This sparks worry as the government shows no signs of reforming towards greater openness and to be more attentive to the voices of the community.
As the paper gave relatively more coverage to the opposition during the general election, the ban gives basis to the impression that this is a “punishment” by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
The ban might be the start of a witch-hunt by the BN to clampdown on stronger voices following the elections.
Makkal Osai‘s fate sends a strong signal to other government controlled-papers, some of which have started relaxing their routine blackout of the opposition and called for greater media independence.
The government must immediately lift the ban on Makkal Osai and stop any attempt to control public discussion and expression.
We also call upon the Pakatan Rakyat to issue a stronger rejection of these tactics and to offer the owners of Makkal Osai an opportunity to publish in the states where the coalition governs in a bid to save the newspaper.
We call for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act which has shackled the media and jopardised the state of press freedom in Malaysia.
MIC president S Samy Vellu
I am said this has happened. I don’t know why they (the ministry) did this. But the (the daily’s management) can appeal.
MCA central committee member Wong Nai Chee
I disagree with the decision by the Home Ministry to reject the renewal of Makkal Osai’s publishing permit without stating any obvious reasons.
The Home Ministry’s decision is not rational and will paint a negative perception that the government is trying to get even with the said newspaper.
As long as newspapers report based on facts, the Home Ministry does not have a valid reason to stop renewing the publishing permit for any newspaper. The ministry should at least state the reasons clearly whether the newspaper has violated the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act or Internal Security Act.
Otherwise, it becomes difficult for the government to convince the public on the reasons for not renewing the publishing permit. Furthermore, it may cause the international rating for Malaysia’s press freedom to drop.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary general G Rajasekaran
MTUC urges the home minister to reconsider his decision not to renew the publication permit for Makkal Osai.
It was reported that no reason was cited for the denial of the permit. Even though the minister is armed with legal powers, it is most unfair to reject their application arbitrarily.
MTUC is deeply concerned over the fate of the 102 employees whose livelihood is dependent on their continued employment and income. We urge the minister to consider the hardship that would be imposed on the families of the employees.
If the publication has willfully breached any of the conditions of the permit then the ministry should inform the publishers accordingly. There are adequate provisions in the act to penalise individuals concerned rather than shut down the whole operation without any regard for the welfare of the 102 families.
The Home Ministry’s action against Makkal Osai confirms the numerous criticism that the government uses the requirement on all publications to obtain permits every year, to intimidate and curtail freedom of the media.
DAP Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran
The ban on Makkal Osai is shocking not only because the Home Ministry bureaucrats arrogantly refused to give a reason for the ban, but it comes at a time when the people have clearly indicated through the March 8 polls that they want a new Malaysia where press freedom is a central pillar.
The banning of the paper indicates that the Umnoputras who dominate the federal government and bureaucracy have not learnt their lesson from Makkal Shakthi or people’s power shown on March 8.
The ban is also unacceptable because it is against fundamental liberties guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.
The officials who made this unfair and unjust decision must be made accountable for their action. They must either defend their decision or be sacked.
All lovers of democracy in Malaysia are shocked by the ban. The newspaper had given fair and free coverage to all political parties – opposition and government – in a manner that had won praise from its readers and the Indian community at large.
I urge the government to immediately restore the publishing license of Makkal Osai not just because the future of the employees are at stake but also to tell the world that we are a civilised nation and practice freedom of the press.
With this ban i feel worse things are waiting to happen like a further crackdown by the government? I will raise this matter in Parliament to ensure the paper’s license is restored without delay.
I will also campaign for the abolition of the need for newspapers to have publishing licenses.
The Printing Presses and Publications Act is undemocratic and against the interest of the people and has been used by the ruling Umno party to instill fear and curb freedom of the press. It must be abolished.
Worse for Malaysia, this anti-press freedom action comes when Malaysia is at the bottom rank of the World Press Freedom Index.
In the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index 2007 Malaysia plunged 32 notches, a sad indication of the repressive atmosphere under the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
MIC Central Working Committee (CWC) member S Murugesan
The Home Ministry must provide reasons for the ban. The ministry must be very careful and weigh things properly before taking such drastic action.
They should not curtail freedom of expression unless it infringes the law and threatens national security.
In the absence of any valid reasons, the ban should be lifted. I am saddened that a paper has been banned especially since Makkal Osai had a big readership among the Indian community.
Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar
We are very sad that such a thing has happened, Makkal Osai is the heartbeat of the Tamil readers. Being a vernacular paper, they cannot run away from Indian issues.
The Hindraf issue is not only an Indian issue but a Malaysian issue. By catering for the Indians, obviously Makkal Osai has to bring out the good and bad about Hindraf. They have been fair in their reporting.
The daily has given prominence to BN leaders as well. The Anwar Ibrahim issue is also a national issue. The paper is in business not social work. So in competing with their rivals they have to provide news of value and report on current issues to maintain profitability.
The Indian community needs to be kept updated on all the issues related to their future progress. Makkal Osai has been in touch with issues concerning the grassroots and poor Indians.
Makkal Osai is a good instrument which must be allowed to operate with the freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution.
Any quarter which is not happy can resort to legal action instead of banning the daily. This is unfair. What about the fate of the employees?
This move will only further anger the Indian community which is already seeing red over several government policies.
|Apr 16, 08 4:58pm|
|The Home Ministry today rejected the renewal of Tamil daily Makkal Osai’s publication permit, a move believed to be related to the widespread coverage given to the opposition.When contacted, Makkal Osai general manager SM Periasamy confirmed that the ministry issued the letter which stated that the daily’s application ‘will not be considered’.The letter did not state any reasons for the rejection.
According to Periasamy, the daily – which is closely linked to former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam – had submitted an application for renewal in July, three months ahead of its permit’s expiry.
Since Oct 15 – the day its permit expired – the daily has continued publication with the understanding that the government was in the process of considering its application for renewal.
It finally received the answer from the ministry today.
It is noted for the extensive coverage given to the opposition often featuring lengthy articles on their leaders such as PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim.
The daily, launched in 2005, has also given prominence to the Makkal Sakthi (people’s power) movement which sprang to life following the Nov 25 mammoth rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
However, the daily saw a decline in its circulation after Subramaniam buried the hatchet with his former nemesis MIC president S Samy Vellu who owns the rival Tamil Nesan daily.
Apart from the two dailies, the other Tamil newspaper in the market is Malaysia Nanban.
“We will file an appeal against this decision tomorrow,” said Periasamy.
Makkal Osai, whose office is located in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, has some 100 staff. Their fate remains unknown.
Yesterdays UMNO demonstration in KOMTAR get wide coverage from our local media. But, the protestors numbers is differ with one and another…
Do media report a news as it is, or cover up the news as it wants?
Malaysiakini reported that there are 1000 UMNO members and supporters are there… and 3000 onlookers include 8 truck FRU
Utusan Malaysia reported that there is 3000 protestors from NGO and UMNO supporters
Berita Harian reported that there is 2000 protestors.
This is only examples from three news media reporting…
Which one public will trust?
Media should stop cover up the facts. Tell the truth. Dont put your word in their mouth and ask them to spit again so that you get your worthy news.
Please do balanced reporting. Public may get bored with our local media. It so obvious which side you stand.
My advice is, dont trust our mainstream newspaper… Use Malaysiakini as your news source, or Centre for independent Journalism and many more via online.
If we see how our news media potraying political changes in Malaysia is incredible. They started to campaigning for BN right away from now on. The news scopes mostly shows that BN has “insaf”. THey will working to tackle all the problems in country. So it means that before this nothing has been done?
Now our BN leaders vastly campaigning to PKR-DAP-PAS ruling state people that they have made a wrong choice by rejecting BN. Now they are the one who started to create racial tensions. They are the one who threatening Malays that NEP is on its way to end and so on…
To show you all what i mean, here some news headlines by our news media:
PKR ‘no’ to 8 slots for DAP(theStar) – shows that there are quarell among PKR and DAP. But from what i know is, they are in process of discussing the issue to solve it and form a balanced government.
Hisham: ‘New’ BN will start the government(theStar) – Shows that BN leaders will be listening to people, they had learnt from general election. So called ‘insaf’.
Nazri: We may see end of NEP(theStar) – its a form of threatening the malays that they going to lose their rights.
DAP decissions will affect all Malaysians, says Hisham(theStar) – Creating racial tension…why? quoted from the news: “We cannot allow a large part of the country’s economy to be ruled by the minority races while the majority race is abandoned without representation,” said Hishamudin.
Call to scrap mega projects(theStar) – it shows that Penang UMNO’s voice is more powerful than State government. It makes people worry that Penang might lose their economy and only BN can deliver to public.
Huan: DAP was against appointment of DCM(theStar) – bringing back the 1990’s story. Now 2008 la… come on man, be a man.
Formula BN boleh bentuk kerajaan Perak(Utusan Malaysia) – baru nak fikir masa depan negara…
KM Pulau Pinang berdolak-dalik(Utusan Malaysia) – Guan Eng clearly stated that Utusan has misled his statement. see theSun.
Henti projek mega P. Pinang(Utusan Malaysia) – Utusan play his part to threten an misled people!
Rakyat kurang yakin manifesto dipenuhi(Utusan Malaysia) – siapa yang dia orang interview ni? Adakah suara beberapa orang ni mewakili seluuruh rakyat selangor? Suara rakayat ternyata dalam keputusan P/raya la…
Jangan gugat harmoni(Utusan Malaysia) – siapa yang gugat harmoni sekarang? sedarlah sikit.
There are more news that shoe our media has started to campaigning for BN from now on. Before this, they just promoting BN leaders, now we must change the term from promoting to Camapaigning.
Media Prima Bhd (believed to be linked with UMNO)
New Straits Times
Nanyang Siang Pau
MIX, LIGHT & EASY
Tiong Hiew King
Sin Chew Daily
Guang Ming Daily
Lau Hui Kang
With this kind of Ownership how can the media play its role as a watchdog?
We all living in the age where media role has been changed to lap dog!!! Only serve to their owner… Not to the lay people… We only receive one side of the story… There is no balance in news reporting… Reported news also not to us, to their owners, who feed them… Where is the media ethic that i learn? Am i going to work on this unbalanced media’s? Will i serve the people well? How?
Media has neglected lay peoples rights to know, rights to informations, rights to balanced news… When this will change?
This situation wont change until we change ourself… Why do we must subscribe to this kind of media when we knew that there is no democracy in practice…
Media Ethics has been thrown into drainage by those people…. Once upon a time media is used to pass information to people, to make them knowledgeable…Now it is used to fool us… Are fee stupid enough to be fooled by them?
Is there any hope to change this situation?