Monday, December 17, 2007

Malaysia, where are the journalists?

The below are relevant extracts from a letter which calls in question the near total absence of critical reporting in the Government controlled media in Malaysia.

Letter: Where Are The Journalists

For a long time, the Indians have been receiving a very raw deal. Many of them are labourers with paltry incomes that are no match to the escalating costs of living in Malaysia's badly-managed economy. If they try to seek alternative or additional incomes by setting up hawker stalls, for example, they face problems with the local council. Petty traders are met with racist and religious bigots who give minority races a tough time. Bribery, unfair treatment and unreasonable terms all conspire to make it next to impossible for these disadvantaged groups.

Religion, their sole comfort in life, is given a literal bashing when their temples or shrines are demolished with little or no compassion. Can one expect a community to undergo incessant oppression and not react? Do they not deserve a more compassionate review of their situation? Few speak up or represent them. Those who do are thrown into jails without trial (eulogised as detention centers, call it what you will, Kamunting is a jail). Surely this is a matter of serious public concern requiring objective dissecting of all relevant issues.

Where are the journalists?

There are other equally serious issues in Malaysia including equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities, transparent economic management and review of civil and religious issues facing all sections of the communities. The media must play a central role in all of these. There should be a special role played by journalists in the current situation.

The editors, in particular, should stand up and be counted. If they persist in playing the pliant servant of the ruling party, how can they be the people's conscience? If they write and report only in the manner approved by the government, they are mere instruments of propaganda not honorable journalists.

I suppose to a large extent, Malaysian media is more about making money than anything else. They are business enterprises. They have to turn a profit for their shareholders. I suppose in a country like Malaysia, where credibility isn't a differentiating factor, there is no incentive to do the right thing and damn the profits.

In more mature societies, a sycophantic media soon loses its credibility and its audience. Very quickly soon after, it loses its advertisers. There is a business case for credibility in these societies. In Malaysia the reverse is true. There is a business case to be sycophantic. A sycophantic media serves very little purpose in terms of its original raison d'ĂȘtre.

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