Posts Tagged 'Media'

Malaysia’s media-State relations

Media Prima’s TV head Ahmad Farid Ridzuan reportedly has been seconded to the Prime Minister’s Department starting from January 1, 2011.

This is part and parcel of a political and ideological preparation on the part of the ruling coalition for a general election that has been increasingly expected to be held next year.

It also illustrates a symbiotic relationship between the mainstream media and the State in Malaysia, a situation that is reinforced by the fact that the media are owned by certain component parties of the ruling BN or their friends. 

For a complete story, see here.

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New media boss in Najib administration?

It’s almost a ‘tradition’ in Malaysia that a change of administration at the national level is followed by a management and editorial change in certain media organisations.

Thus, The Malaysian Insider may not be off the mark when it reported that ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia, Johan Jaafar, is expected to helm media giant Media Prima.

One would also anticipate a change in editorial policy as regards the media organisation’s coverage of certain issues and personalities, a policy that is usually ‘friendly’ towards the new administration. Not that the media organisation concerned has not been friendly to the present Abdullah administration.

According to the Malaysian Insider today:

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – Datuk Johan Jaafar, the ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia who was once identified as being close to former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been designated as the new media czar for the in-coming administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Johan will be appointed a director of The New Straits Times Press Berhad (NSTP) and chairman of Media Prima Berhad.

Johan is expected to be appointed an executive director in NSTP, the publisher of the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro.

He will take over from Datuk Abdul Mutalib Mohamed Razak as chairman of Media Prima, which operates all of Malaysia’s private terresterial television stations – TV3, 8TV, TV9 and NTV7 – as well as two radion stations – Hot FM and Fly FM. The group also owns outdoor advertising giants Big Tree and UPD.

Johan is expected to set the tone for the Najib administration at NSTP and Media Prima.

Tighter media control by next year?

Online newspaper The Malaysian Insider predicts that the Malaysian media would face more curbs when Najib Razak takes over the reins of government from Abdullah Badawi early next year.

It won’t be a surprise if and when such a dismal change were to happen given the existing legal and political constraints within which the media operate, and also the present structure of the media industry as a whole.

Put another way, the available democratic space that the mainstream media enjoy varies from time to time as it is, to a large extent, subject to the discretion of the powers-that-be. In a sense, the status of media freedom is very much dependent on personality, not democratic institutions. 

A further control of the media predictably would mean, among other things, more editorial space being allocated to the ruling party and its leaders, and legitimate criticisms against these leaders would be further discouraged.

The media may resort to more sensationalist reporting of the trivial and bizarre, while certain sections of the media industry would concentrate more on business and financial news and analyses to the point of pushing aside or downplaying stories of impoverished and marginalised communities, for instance. Not that these underprivileged communities have not already been pushed aside by much of the media.

There would, of course, be a lot more ‘entertainment’ in the media.

Furthermore, the implications of this heightened curb on the mainstream media could be substantially felt in Malaysia’s cyberspace in terms of the authorities’ sustained monitoring of, and more attempts to control, the use of the Internet. This is especially so when, as alluded to in the Insider story, public grievances and criticisms are expected to spike in light of the world recession biting hard into the national economy by early next year.

So if the Insider‘s prediction turns out to be true, we’re in for a big spin in more ways than one.

Here’s an extract of the Insider report:

 

DEC 17 – One of the most noticeable changes when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak becomes Prime Minister in March could be tighter control from Putrajaya on the media and on the decision-making process.

And if this happens, the loudest cheers for Najib will be from his Cabinet colleagues, senior Umno politicians and civil servants.

One constant during weekly Cabinet meetings since the March 8 general elections has been griping about the choice of articles and tone of coverage in several mainstream newspapers. Ironically, the sharpest criticisms have been reserved for papers owned by Barisan Nasional political parties.

The dominant view among Ministers and senior Umno politicians is that while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should be lauded for giving the media some space, they believe that the perimeters were not marked out clearly enough.

As a result, newspapers seem to be critical of any policies announced by the government; and more interested in focusing on crime and negative news, these critics allege.

Part of this griping is prompted by frustration of having to share space with a resurgent Opposition and part with their inability to set the agenda for news outlets even in their own stable. A government official, familiar with discussions on the media, told The Malaysian Insider: “This is a very critical time for the country. The global economy is in a really bad state and there will pain for Malaysians. The government needs everyone to be on the same team and push for the same cause.

“Instead we are seeing some newspapers being more interested in adopting a populist approach.”

A Cabinet Minister confirmed with the Malaysian Insider that there has been some discussion about a few newspapers, adding that there seems to be a trend to criticize government initiatives even without understanding it and explaining it to the public.

“Pak Lah may have meant well but we would like a less messy media scene. Some issues should be out of bounds and the media must respect the boundaries, ” he said, noting that combustible issues such as race relations and Malay rights must be tackled with caution and preferably not discussed openly.

If his views sound familiar, it is because they echo those of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While he and many others in Cabinet do not envisage a complete return to the days of Mahathirism, they believe there is merit in ruling Malaysia with a firmer and stronger hand. And with a cache of fear.

Crushing corruption, freeing media

Media have an important role to play in the fight against corruption. However, cautioned Bernama TV advisor Azman Ujang, it is not the media’s ‘business to expose corrupt practices’ on their own accord. 

‘But to do so (for the media to expose corrupt practice on their own accord) would be to tread on dangerous grounds as those who stand accused can fight back, especially if there’s not enough or strong evidence against those alleged to be corrupt,” he added.

True, insufficient evidence would only make journalists vulnerable to legal suits, etc. But this also points to the fact that investigative journalism can be hampered severely by certain quarters in the government who have the penchant for invoking the all-encompassing Official Secrets Act.

Put another way, only a free and responsible media can help facilitate the fight against the scourge of corruption in the country. In this regard, the long-standing proposal for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act must be considered seriously by the powers-that-be.

Who’s giving Malaysia a bad image?

Umno supreme council member Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi complained that the Opposition’s ‘relentless efforts to destabilise the government’ had smeared the image of the country via the international media.

 

A New Straits Times report quoted him as saying that ‘foreigners tended to believe that the government was weak because of “political conspiracies” concocted by the opposition’.

 

Is Zahid trying to suggest that most, if not all, of the international media organisations can be so undiscerning as to be easily ‘duped’ by parties critical of the federal government?

 

And the ‘foreigners’ are so gullible as to swallow hook, line and sinker whatever they read or hear of Malaysia and Malaysian politics especially in an era of advanced ICT and borderless world?

 

Modern communications technology offers readers, home and abroad, a variety of news and information that can enlighten them on issues of the day. Or at the very least, provide them with various perspectives on a particular issue for them to mull over.

 

Anyway, who are these seemingly naive ‘foreigners’ who, as he claimed, ‘tended to believe that the government was weak…’?

 

Perhaps it would be useful for Zahid to ponder whether it’s possible that at times the antics and verbal expressions of certain politicians especially from the ruling coalition can make – or had made – Malaysia a laughing stock of the world.