When media is not freePosted: May 3, 2012
It’s World Press Freedom Day today – 3rd May 2012.
Also, it has become a very sad day for me, as I read news about how one of our mainstream newspapers in Malaysia, the New Straits Times, has allegedly fabricated news, to benefit one side of the political divide.
I say fabricated news, because according to damning evidence, the report as published by NST is, blatantly, a lie.
It is one thing that we get lopsided news and coverage, from both the mainstream or the alternative (read=online) newspapers or newsportals. Print newspapers in Malaysia are generally known to print only news that are favourable to the political parties who own them.
NST is owned by UMNO. This is no secret. Most other print papers are owned by other political parties of the coalition in power. This alone shows that there is no way that the media in Malaysia forms the fourth pillar of democracy, which we so direly need, considering how the other three pillars of democracy in our country have been breached.
Today, I read on the internet that NST published an article claiming Nick Xenophon, Australian Senator, to be anti-Islam, picking a “statement” he made in Parliament in 2009. The article, as a whole, questions Xenophon’s credibility to have any opinions of our country because he is deemed “anti-Islam” by the “statement” he made.
The quoted “statement”, has Xenophon saying: “Islam is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”
To be honest, us Malaysians have gotten so used to our local media using skewed news and statements taken out of context, that something like this doesn’t even make us raise our eyebrows anymore. To us, it is NST trying to put Xenophon under bad light, so that what he says about our electoral reforms and Bersih 3.0 would not hold water.
But this time, NST has really upped their game. Instead of giving us the usual “statement out of context”, they have went even further, replacing a word in the statement to make it something else completely.
The original statement made by Xenophon was: ” Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”
Is this how low our local media has gotten? Is this what they call “reporting”? Because if it is, I really mourn for the journalists and reporters of our country. Despite the largely biased reports we get, somehow I am more than willing to believe that reporters and journalists themselves abhor this kind of behaviour – it goes against everything that reporters and journalists should stand for.
It is World Press Freedom Day today.
By “press freedom”, it does not mean that the press should be free to print whatever they want, regardless of the truth. They should know that better than anyone else. World Press Freedom Day is about freedom for the press to publish the truth, regardless of who it might hurt, without fear or favour.
On this day, what our country has shown us, and to the whole world, is that our press is anything but free.
In the reports I read, it is stated that NST has since taken the offensive article down from its website, but there is no indication of whether the offensive article was also published in its print version. If there is, I can safely say that the damage has been done, regardless of what measures are taken after this.
I cannot help but say this again: the fact that NST’s editors found it fit to print/publish an article like this with such erroneous information that could not possibly be by mere accident, it signifies the death of this fourth pillar of democracy. Instead of being the voice that holds the powers-that-be under scrutiny, it has now completely become one more channel through which the authorities can play with our minds.
There is no World Press Freedom Day. Not in Malaysia. Not today.