The Malaysian media dilemma?

It appears that post-March 8 Malaysia has posed a kind of journalistic dilemma for most newspapers to the extent that they have been pushed to figure out which ‘safer’ political route to take.

According to a Kuala Lumpur-based media observer, at one point the political situation had become so uncertain that it confounded editors. The editors concerned weren’t certain as to who they should lend support: the present government or the impending government.

Such is the conundrum that confonted much of the mainstream media, which, according to this observation, have all along been so used to getting directives from ‘upstairs’.

To get a sense of the media observation, see below:

Which way to sway—a dilemma for the media in Malaysia

On two different occasions this year, a leading English daily in Malaysia was caught in a dilemma—it did not know which way to sway. The top editorial leadership was unsure if the daily should swing towards the government-of-the day as it has always done, or to lean towards the “government-in-waiting”.

The first one became an option when the newsrooms waited for the general election results to come streaming in on March 8 this year.

Most journalists expected the ruling coalition National Front (Barisan Nasional) to win but with a reduced margin given the aggressiveness of the opposition parties this time around, primarily due to Anwar Ibrahim’s fiery speeches that were reverberating in the Internet. No one in their wildest moments ever thought that five out of 14 states would fall to the opposition—and that too, these would be the most progressive of the states. The opposition parties then had formed a loose coalition, and the de facto leader of this coalition was Anwar.

The forlorn look on a senior editor that evening when the results came trickling in at midnight said it all. The editorial team of the daily was lost, probably as lost as the Badawi government. No ruling coalition or government official was giving the editors instructions as to what to front-page, whose pictures not to use, what sort of headlines to write.

For the entire analysis, check this out.

While we’re still on the subject of the media, it is to be noted that the Higher Education Ministry has commissioned a study to examine the trends of mass media reporting in Malaysia. 

According to a Bernama report, so far the Mara University of Technology’s Faculty of Communication and Media Studies has agreed to undertake the study. The findings, added the report, ‘would be discussed with media organisations before being made public’.


6 Responses to “The Malaysian media dilemma?”

  1. 1 Samuel Goh Kim Eng 2 August 2008 at 2:18 am

    The mass media is ultimately responsible to its own target public
    Regardless of whether or not the country is labelled as a republic
    The main criterion is to be objective and not bias towards specific
    And never play to the gallery just for the sake of getting more traffic

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 020808
    Sat. 2nd Aug. 2008.

  2. 2 kplee 2 August 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I have no choice to buy our local newspaper the STAR. At least they are the best of the WORSE. If PR comes out with their own media I will support and throw the STAR to the garbage bins.

  3. 3 abil 2 August 2008 at 3:19 pm

    There is no newspaper willing to publish the truth. They only want to put what the ruling party want them to do and proudly claim to be independent. Even letters that are facts but critical of the establishment is not published. We all agree that certain censorship is necessary in a plural soceity, however to publish untruth is not commendable. More and more are dependent on news portals and blogs for the main story.

  4. 4 Justice 2 August 2008 at 4:42 pm

    The MSM are the worst liars that we have ever seen so far. Their mischievous spins are calculated to greatly harm the opposition and propagate the lies of the BN, especially UMNO. The Internet has taught the MSM a big lesson in the last GE on 8 Mar. All those who have read the internet reports, especially those in TV clips as well as blogs, can judge for themselves who is telling the truth and who is lying. And the way the MSM covered the Lingam tape controversy is enough to convince the average Joe Public that the UMNO/BN, through the MSM, was insulting our intelligence, by spinning lies, lies and damn lies even while evidence of the truth was available for all to see. It may be compared to a situation where a camera caught a thief with stolen goods in his hands and the govt, despite this, continues to insist he is innocent! Let’s all boycott the MSM…until they change their mindset and stop being cheap propagandists of the very much hated UMNO/BN!

  5. 5 J. D. Lovrenciear 2 August 2008 at 4:58 pm

    The public’s right to know and the media’s duty to inform, obviously does not apply in the Malaysian media context. That fundamental guideline that has prevailed since the advent of the ‘Penny Press’ across the planet earth somehow has been buried a long time since the reign of the previous PM.

    Today, any editor will cry out un-ashamedly, “look here my friend, I have mouths to feed, OK!”

    So, even though the Minister of Information only recently lambasted that ‘the government does not direct the media and that if the media decide to self-regulate then it is their own peril’ it is an open secret that the Malaysian media is indeed muzzled.

    This damage by Mahathir to cement his ‘mamaged democracy’ has to be blasted in order to resurrect the media. And for that we need a new government.

    To begin with the OSA, Printing and Publishing Act and the ISA would be the first bastions to undo. Otherwise, the media is doomed forever. Period.

  6. 6 su 2 August 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Thanks for the link.

    The Malaysian media, in my opinion, are half-responsible for the position they are in. They may not have put themselves there, but they sure did make their “masters” think that they want to be there.

    It’s going to be an uphill battle.

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