Wong Chun Wai’s biased opinionated journalism

This is a follow up on an earlier article “Wong Chun Wai’s opinion on better democracy of press”, first published here on Wednesday, 9 May 2007, based on Wong Chun Wai own’s ‘On The Beat”, “Do Away With Archaic Laws“. It seems that Sufi Yusoff, Media and PR Liaision Officer of Perdana Leadership Foundation, had written to the Editor of the Star’s News Desk on 8 May 2007, as reciprocity to the same issue:

This is Sufi’s letter transmitted via e mail:


The Editor,

newsdesk@thestar.com.my

May 8, 2007


Dear Sir,

Re: Do Away With Archaic Laws – On the Beat

I read with interest the above article which appeared in On The Beat, Sunday Star, May 6, 2007.

2. I find it intriguing that the writer is calling on the Government to do away with certain “archaic” laws that he says are stifling Press freedom in Malaysia.

3. I appreciate the writer recognising the emergence of bloggers as a source of information, a viewpoint that I personally share alongside the emergence of internet-based media.

4. What I find amusing is while declaring that under the current administration there is greater democratic space and tolerance for dissent, the writer picks on “political players who had suppressed the media when they were in power”.

“Many of these figures lack the credibility to talk about press freedom and when they do so, they smack of hypocrisy.

Some are turning to the new media and have complained about media blackout when they, too, had used the same tactics to shut out their opponents,” says the writer.

5. Who are these “political players”? The writer must be specific in this era of the “freer media”. But to be realistic Press freedom is subjective. What may be free to some may not be free to others.

6. When two editors of mainstream English daily (not The Star) wrote two separate factually wrong articles about a certain subject and since it came under my responsibility to correct those errors as a party directly affected by their error, the editors chose not to publish my clarification. Nor did they bother to apologise.

7. But the reporting error committed would have affected the judgement of readers towards the subject at hand. Can I then assume that there is freedom to publish untruth or half-truths and freedom to deny the aggrieved party recourse? I have to mention that it was the bloggers and internet media that later published both letters. And these were the only avenue left for me to put across the facts in the face of refusal from the mainstream media.

8. Within media organisations, Press freedom, I believe exists only within the spheres of perception of editors or the ultimate decision maker, who may or may not be the editor i.e. owner, chairman etc.

9. Editors, I believe, should continuously push the freedom barrier or parameter less they be contented with the way things are.

10. If I may ask about the situation before this current administration, how many times did the writer or any other editor in The Star receive directives that amounted to a curtailment of their freedom from the political player/players? Were there directives dished out not to highlight certain politicians or certain issues by the political players/player? Were there directives to blackout the opposition by the political players? Were there any prohibitive directives at all or were they mere perception, perception that certain items may not be compliant with the wants of the political player therefore it should not be published?

11. Answers to these questions are important to show if the media is actually more free today or whether it is mere perception.

Not to push the barrier, to stay “compliant” only to complaint and grouse about the lack of freedom later would, as the writer put it, smack of hypocrisy.


Yours Sincerely,


Sufi Yusoff


Cc

Dato Wong Chun Wai
Deputy Group Chief Editor
The Star Publications Sdn Bhd
onthebeat@thestar.com.my

 

Its is only fair that The Star publish Sufi’s letter in response to Wong Chun Wai’s article. So when the Press Democracy is discussed in this flavour, Wong Chun Wai chose to refuse to extend the professional journalistic courtesy for Sufi to have his say. So much can be said about Press Democracy from how Wong Chun Wai treated this episode.

Eventually, Sufi had to produce this letter through the blogs. The content and how the issue is being presented says it all. It is never the intention for blogs to “steal the thunder” from mainstream media like The Star but this biasness on opinionated journalism will widen the gap between the Bloggosphere and mainstream media.

Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 12:33  Comments (7)  

No compromise with loyalty

This is what Joceline Tan wrote in her weekly political column in the Star yesterday (www.thestar.com.my):

No compromise with loyalty

No one tells Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad what he can or cannot do but even his staunchest supporters in Umno are concerned about what they see as his overtures to the opposition parties. As much as they idolise him, they draw the line when it comes to the political opposition.

INSIGHT:JOCELINE TAN

KOTA BARU is such an easy-going sort of town that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appeared a little overdressed in his immaculately tailored Nehru suit.

But he looked so debonair that all eyes were drawn to him. Besides, he was in greater shape than those seated with him on the stage.

On one side of the former Premier were the incomparable Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and the even more incomparable Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, the former MP better known as “Dollah Kok Lanas”.

On the other side were Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who was sacked from Umno several years ago but has not given up on politics, and two Kelantan Umno old-timers, Tan Sri Mohamed Yaakob and Tan Sri Hussein Ahmad.

Mohamed was the Mentri Besar when Kelantan fell to PAS, and Hussein, a former MP, was once so strikingly handsome that people called him Sri Rama, after the hero in the famous wayang kulit drama Hikayat Sri Rama.

All very colourful characters, some still in currency, some past their prime, but all looking so cosy together on the same stage that afternoon.

The event was a talk organised by the pro-royalist Kelantan People’s Action Council headed by Ibrahim. Some say Ibrahim, who has an axe to grind with Umno, is using Dr Mahathir for his own purposes but there is probably something symbiotic going on there.

It is ironic that Dr Mahathir should be so desirable to this pro-royalist group after the way he clipped the wings of the royals.

The hall was not filled like the first time he spoke in Kota Baru. The audience then had included Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and other top PAS politicians.

Dr Mahathir’s stamina was pretty amazing and he was on his feet at the rostrum for almost two hours. It was quite familiar fare – off-the-cuff, a little rambling and targeted mainly at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

But he said several things that raised eyebrows even among his most fervent supporters in Umno.

He said he wanted Umno to win but that it would not be surprising if PAS won again in Kelantan because they had been in power since 1990. He also said people deserved the leaders they elected and Umno should focus on defending its national seat of power.

This, coming on the heels of his remarks during the Ijok by-election that there was a need for a stronger opposition, gave the impression that he seemed to be edging closer to the other side.

PAS has been quick to capitalise on it and party vice-president Datuk Husam Musa, who has taken to calling Dr Mahathir “my good friend,” said politics should not be dominated by one party and asked people to think about “Tun Mahathir’s advice”.

Politics does make for strange bedfellows.

Said Umno man and die-hard admirer Zakhir Mohamed: “I agree with Tun on many things but I’m worried about where he’s heading. When we met him in December, he talked about saving Umno. But what he’s saying now may hurt Umno.”

Dr Mahathir enjoys respect in Umno. When he speaks they listen, and they see him as a fearless voice on national and international issues.

But supporters and admirers alike in the party draw the line when it comes to siding with the opposition.

“Younger Umno members like me are open-minded about criticism especially from a party elder but we are 100% loyal to the party,” said PJ Utara Umno Youth vice-head Mohd Ezan Taib.

At the height of the Mahathir-Abdullah feud, the Youth wing caused ripples when it invited Tun Mahathir to speak at a forum.

Mohd Ezan said they were not taking sides but were merely unhappy over the disrespect some Umno quarters had shown the former Premier.

“Tun will always be special but we hope he won’t go beyond the party line,” he said.

And Dr Mahathir does get special treatment.

When the private jet he came in landed at the Kota Baru airport, the silver Mercedes Benz fetching him was allowed to cruise right up to the plane to pick him.

Earlier, several members of a bomb squad had meticulously swept the car for devices, one going under the car and another almost crawling into the boot. The police were not taking chances after the pepper spray incident on his last trip to Kelantan.

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir insisted his father is very much an Umno and Barisan Nasional loyalist.

“He does not campaign for the opposition. He has had a long history of fighting them and there’s no love lost there. His grouse is with the top leadership and that’s where it ends.

“There’s nothing I can do to stop him from speaking his mind nor do I intend to do so. It’s his right to say what he thinks about issues,” said Mukhriz, an Umno Youth exco member.

The transition, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, has been more difficult for Dr Mahathir than Abdullah.

“Umno is in a strong position but any action that attempts to undermine the strength can affect the final result in the general election. It’s not wise to go along this line and Umno members will have to draw the line at advocating a stronger opposition.

“An Umno man who does not want a strong majority for the party is a contradiction,” said Syed Hamid.

Dr Mahathir’s latest interview with Malaysiakini is likely to ruffle more feathers. He is clearly trying to drive a wedge between Abdullah and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak apart from his indictment of the very ministers he had retained in his Cabinet all those years.

His attacks basically boil down to Abdullah-bashing. It says a great deal about Abdullah, the way he has put up with the criticism.

“I don’t think Pak Lah has been diminished by the attacks. Pak Lah has shown restraint and accommodation in letting Tun express his views,” said one Malay consultant.

For a great part of Dr Mahathir’s 22 years at the top, he was Umno and Umno was him. As such, it is not easy to now persuade members that when he attacks Abdullah he is attacking the president, and not the party.

For the average Umno member, loyalty to the party also means loyalty to the leadership.

Dr Mahathir talks a lot of sense but the trouble is that no matter how sensible he sounds, it still jars with contradictions when juxtaposed with the things he had condoned during his years in power.

The Malay intellectual Rustam A. Sani wrote with his usual eloquence about these contradictions in his blog last month, lamenting, “why so many people still want to listen to the man, and listen to him with all seriousness, is simply beyond me.”

Abdullah continues to be stoic about it except when the accusations touch on his family.

He does not want to retaliate against the man who put him there in the first place. Also, two of Dr Mahathir’s predecessors died outside of Umno because of disputes with him. Abdullah has no wish to see Dr Mahathir anywhere but inside Umno.

Just how long more will Dr Mahathir go on this way?

“I don’t think he is going to stop anytime soon,” said Syed Hamid.

Nor can anyone really stop this iconoclastic man who has, in his time, taken on figures from the formidable Lee Kuan Yew to the less formidable George W. Bush.

Like Singapore‘s Lee, he has ridden the tiger and come out victorious. But that was when he was still holding the reins of power.

These days, as he said somewhat tongue-in-cheek last weekend, he is a “pensioner.”Crossing the line: Dr Mahathir enjoys respect in Umno but supporters and admirers alike in the party draw the line when it comes to siding with the opposition.

I like the title of this article. It is a virtue that I value. Loyalty is a virtue that should swing both ways.

The past three months, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been reminding UMNO members to be loyal to the Perjuangan and the institution. He has said some bitter things about lately how some UMNO members behave, but like his train of thoughts as a physician, one has to take the bitter medicine to get well from any illness. This behaviour should not allowed to be developed into a new culture. That is what Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad trying to do, stop the spread of the disease.

Its always back to how anyone view his speeches, since June last year in Kelab Century, Kota Bahru last July, Petaling Jaya Utara UMNO do last August, Johor Bahru in February, Kulai in March and last week in Kota Bahru; half empty or half full?

Over protective and defensive people tend to get it wrong, for all the wrong reasons. That’s what I am worried for!

 

*Addendum:
This is what I was talking about, (The Star, Monday, 14 May 2007):

Dr M denies shifting support

TAIPING: Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has denied shifting his support to the Opposition.

He said his recent criticism was not the result of a shift in his support but was instead to ensure the continuing strength of Umno and the Government.

“The reason behind my criticisms is to see Umno become stronger. If I do not support Umno and keep holding on to its fighting principles, then Umno will become weak,” said Dr Mahathir to reporters after Umno Youth Wing’s ‘Internationalising Malays’ colloquium here yesterday.

Earlier, speaking at the closing of the colloquium, Dr Mahathir advised the Malays to work hard and learn to feel shame from failure, to build a stronger race.

He said this was the only way for the Malays to catch up with the Chinese.

“If you remain lazy, you will never see progress,” he said, adding that the Malays had a tendency to be lazy and find shortcuts to earn a fast buck.

“God gave us this uncanny power that the more we do something, the better we become at it.

“But in order to do this, we must be hardworking,” said Dr Mahathir.

He told the Malays that if they were given business licences, they should make use of them instead of finding other means of earning money from them.

“We have given the Malays many opportunities under the New Economic Policy and some have made use of that positively while some have taken it for granted.”

He added that although many Malays had done well for themselves, the achievements of an individual should not be confused with that of the race as a whole.

“Although the Malays are better off today than before, they are still far behind the Chinese,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also said the only way to banish the culture of bribery was to understand the meaning of shame.

“If we don’t know shame, it (bribery) will become a way of life. It can be stopped but only if we recognise that it can destroy us.”

 

Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 08:42  Comments (2)