Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NST editorial laced with pro-establishment propaganda

20 February 2008
NST editorial laced with pro-establishment propaganda

An earlier entry in Media Monitors' Election Diary posits:
"what can Malaysians expect from the NST in its coverage of the impending run-up to the election if not acting as a full throttle mouthpiece for Badawi and the BN"?

The NST editorial on 18 February disparaging Hindraf's Roses Day is more of the same. The sophistry is there all right but the pro-establishment propaganda inescapable.

NST says: "On Saturday, a small group of people staged an illegal rally and attempted to take the election hostage. The little support that remains for the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) gathered in the capital determined that the world should know that they are extremely unhappy."

It repeats the BN line "illegal rally". It downplays the numbers gathered. Several hundreds is to NST "a small number". The paper forgets that comprehensive police roadblocks prevented the numbers from swelling. It forgets the pre-emptive arrest warrants that the Malaysian authorities are wont to issue organisers of just such public assemblies.

The public however has not forgotten that the Hindraf Five are still detained under the ISA. And yet, despite that tyrannical Sword of Damocles, which has been a longstanding deterrent to civic participation, the "small group of people" still bravely assembled in the capital.

NST's editorial accentuates wishful thinking: "The little support that remains for Hindraf"… if only, and goes on to say: "What they are unhappy about exactly is not clear."

A less mean-spirited reader than NST's target audience might well rejoin: "If the PM perked up his big ears a wee bit, he might learn the cause of the Indian Malaysians' unhappiness".

Of if the PM had allowed children to hand him flowers, he could have heard it straight from the mouth of babes.

Or if the PM had listened, he could have gotten some tips from Hindraf's alleged attempt 'to take the election hostage' –- more info to add to his ruling coalition's considerable store of knowledge. Or was Abdullah Badawi afraid that Hindraf would once again present their memo, handed by guileless children this time?

The words employed in the NST editorial to describe Hindraf are deliberately pejorative: "wily use of an absurd suit", "its slick organisers hoped to repeat the trick". They rightly belong in BN brochures, not in newspapers.

Inept and unaware?

The editorial then goes on: "They [Hindraf] haven't asked for more Tamil schools, for more jobs in the civil service for Indians. They haven't asked for more welfare support for underprivileged Indians. The Malaysian Indian Congress did all that, capitalising on an opportunity that Hindraf's organisers threw away."

What an inept newspaper not to be aware that Hindraf had already sent hundreds of letters, memos and requests to the authorities, without meriting any response.

What an inept newspaper not to be aware that the Hindraf petition (which its very own editorial derides as an absurd suit and slick trick) had already and clearly laid out the litany of woes besetting the Indian community and their remedies.

These remedies, at least, the NST seemed aware of: more Tamil schools, more jobs in the civil service, and more welfare support for underprivileged Indian Malaysians. But the NST gives credit to MIC, where no credit is due, for raising public awareness of the pressing needs.

Lat year, before 'Hindraf' became a household name, Indian Malaysians had gathered peacefully at Putrajaya -- in NST jargon – to "ask". And they had asked nicely. Sad that they were ignored and sent away empty handed.

NST says, "So, what is Hindraf actually fighting for, precisely? They have the same number of votes as every other Malaysian -- one man, one vote -- so they aren't the heroes of a burgeoning Malaysian civil rights movement."

One man, one vote? What an unschooled paper not to know that under Malaysia's skewed electoral weightage, one vote in Putrajaya is manifold the worth of one vote in Bukit Bintang.

Hardly surprising then that it could not enlighten its readers on how constituencies should be delineated so that there is an equal balance in the number of constituents. And if more weightage is accorded to some constituencies, that is, the rural ones, the maximum variation should not exceed 15 per cent (a statutory guideline recommended by the Reid Commission). This ratio is clearly breached in the case of Putrajaya.

Is NST also unaware that one of the main issues confronting the Indian Malaysian community is that though are bona fide Malaysians, a good number of them do not possess birth certificates and other official identity documents? They cannot register for school, much less vote.

If NST is still, now, all that clueless as to what Hindraf is actually fighting for, precisely, then it's not a very effective newspaper, is it? Newspapers are supposed to find out these things and inform their readership. Not require their readership to inform them.

No constructive points

NST says: "They are citizens of a country where more than two million foreigners work, both legally and not, so they can't possibly believe there are not enough jobs."

Indian Malaysians can rightly ask: "Then why are illegal foreigners holding these jobs? Where is the law enforcement that is too eagerly deployed to bully Hindraf? Why is it not doing its task of curbing illegal entry into this country?"

And since the Malaysian authorities seem too fond of throwing about the word 'illegal', can we also not label these jobs as 'illegal jobs' if done by illegal immigrants?

NST blathers on: "What they have done is to claim Hindus have been marginalised, accuse the government of ethnic cleansing, and beg for their five leaders to be released from detention under the Internal Security Act."

If NST is more attuned to the pulse of the rakyat, it would know that civil society demands – no, not "begs" – demands, that the Hindraf leaders be released. And for the ISA to be abolished.

Aah, but then, NST at least does not tag itself "The People's Paper", so its incomprehensibility of the people's strong sentiments is more excusable. Relatively speaking, that is.

NST adds: "They are also doing the BN a favour. They have made themselves widely resented in Kuala Lumpur for disrupting the lives of thousands of peace-loving city folk."

Uh-uh. This tack didn't work the last time. Thousands of peace-loving city folk hooted in derision when the BN trotted out its motley crew of Bukit Bintang pseudo traders to claim that the Bersih rally disrupted business on 10 November.

NST goes out with a whimper (certainly no bang) on this kicker: "They have obscured the fact that there are opposition parties making legitimate attempts to participate in the democratic process and respect elections as a venue for demanding change. It just doesn't look like they are fighting to raise any constructive points. Maybe, it really is for the money."

Isn't it a pity that when opposition parties make legitimate attempts to participate in the democratic process, like when they apply to get police permits for their public assemblies, or when they petition for clean, fair and transparent elections, they are denied this very "legitimacy"? Didn't the PM's famous son-in-law famously deem Bersih an "illegal organisation"?

So perhaps NST should instead direct its verbal lobbying -- or should we say vile 'lobbing' –- at the authorities in a bid to improve "democratic processes". The paper would then be doing its bit for nation-building.

Otherwise, in NST own words, it is simply one newspaper that patently fails "to raise any constructive points".

No comments: