In the new Malaysia, we need high journalistic standards

For the past 2 decades at least, reporting basically means “to tell it like it is”. Good reporting would be that care is taken to ensure accuracy. There is little editorial input. Or, at times, too much, and the report, while accurate, distorts what was actually said by leaving out the context.

Let me give some examples.

In this article, the headline says, “Selangor bought SPLASH at 10 times its price, claims Khalid Ibrahim”. Technically, if you read the article, Khalid “claimed the Selangor government paid 10 times the price to buy over water concessionaire Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor (SPLASH) when compared to an offer made in 2013.” A world of difference. It allows the “lie” that Khalid wants to perpetuate to be published but absolves him from all responsibility by reporting what he actually said in the article.

The fact of the matter is that one cannot compare the value of a company to the value of an offer someone made for it because you can set your offer price to anything you want.

So Khalid’s absurd statement was not called out but in fact that wrong implication was made a headline.

When the media fails to analyse what it is reporting and just allows statements to be published unfiltered, it fails in its role to be a guardian of the information that enters the public sphere through its gates. It allows itself to be manipulated by those who wish to influence public opinion via lies, innuendo and speculation.

This article, entitled “Former Kedah MB’s son questions Rafizi’s motives for slamming 3rd national car” does two things: Firstly, the person who asked the question is characterised as “former Kedah MB’s son”. It is said as if it means something; that here is someone who is speaking from some capacity. The truth is, the son is not even a “front” for the former MB, who passed away earlier this year. So in what capacity is he speaking that The Star is publishing him? The article did not say.
Did he call a press conference? No. This article was derived from a facebook posting.

Secondly, and this is my main gripe, this person questions Rafizi’s motives. And this is so characteristic of Malaysian politics. Rather than debate the merits of a person’s proposal or statement, you sidestep the whole issue by questioning the motivation.

The thing is, you can make a person’s motivation to be anything. You cannot be proven wrong. But in doing so you hope to weaken what that person has put forward.

I can question the motivation of Akhramsyah Sanusi, son of the late Tan Sri Sanusi Junid,for questioning the motivation of Rafizi.

Such “attacks” seem to be saying something, but it actually says nothing. It is innuendo and speculation. And in this instance, the attack is done by a non-player in the context. Star should not have given it any space. But in choosing to do so, it perpetuates this type of politics which is completely useless. If Dr Mahathir makes such a statement it is definitely worth reporting because it has implications. But seriously, the son of the late former MB (1996-1999) of Kedah? Frankly I question The Star’s motivation in publishing this.

This article is headlined “Bung’s ‘F*** you’ worse than my ‘gangster’, says Ramkarpal”. Need I say any more? If you want to run such an article you should say “Ramkarpal is childishly upset that he was ejected for refusing to apologise when asked but Bung was not for saying “F*** you” in Parliament (although he did subsequently apologise and retract his words). After all, Ramkarpal says, “F*** you is much worse than “gangster”.” It’s a much longer headline but at least it says something substantial, clarifies the truth of the situation, and hopefully discourages this type of nonsense from occupying public space.

The list goes on. The practice of “daring” another politician to do this, or to do that, or even to swear on whatever religious book is just theatre; it does not substantiate the truth or wisdom of whatever position that is being challenged. The practice of saying a minister supports whatever vile issue is at stake just because the minister has not by fiat acted on the matter, or when a party is now publicly silent on certain issues it is because it has sold out. Malaysian politics need to grow out of its childish ways. And the media should play its role to foster this.

Politicians and others with an agenda will always want to manipulate the public space but the media should play an intelligent role rather than be a mere amplifier for all and sundry. I am sure that politicians will call up media chiefs to complain but that I think is part and parcel of the role of being a guardian. When the media gives space for substantive debate and discussion, and starve childish politics of publicity or cast these antics in negative light, politicians can learn what will give them the publicity they need. Then too, hopefully, we can relegate the “Jamals and Bungs,” to their proper place in the public space, and Ramkarpal would not ask to be judged by the same standards.

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