The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers


November 13, 2017

The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers

by R. Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Tengku Adnan MansorNajib Razak and Tengku Adnan Mansor– Chickens of the same feather

COMMENT | It will not be the first time a minister has put his foot in the mouth without even realising it. It will not be the last either. The quality of people who are addressed as “YB Menteri” has certainly deteriorated.

Whenever this comes about, many will rush to the cause – to defend the faux pas or in most cases, words, phrases and views uttered that had caused more damage to reputation and status.

Usually, the common cry is “I have been misquoted” or “my words have been taken out of context”. They never admit that they uttered those offending statements and explain their reasons or justify the stand they had taken.

But when the Almighty is dragged into the defence and punishment in the after-life is offered as a threat, the whole issue takes a different dimension.

Suddenly, the journalist and media outlets are told that they have to answer to God – not the laws of the land or the Home Ministry, which has the power to revoke licences, suspend licences and block websites.

Speaking at a press conference after attending a public transport ceremony in Putrajaya yesterday, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor entered the fray and said journalists have to be responsible for their reporting.

“I believe, after this, I will be (at fault), just like what Hamzah (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin) faced when he mentioned (the government’s) effort to reduce the cost of living in his speech, which was later spun to mean something else.

“I don’t know what will happen to this world, especially (to) all of you journalists. You are all responsible, what you are doing is… Remember, you all are going to see God and we will accuse you of lying and slandering towards the community, just to help some people gain success,” Malaysiakini quoted him as saying.

 

A Fake Hadith ?–Economics is Adam Smith’s and Adam Smith is a Man. The Prophet pbuh was  a merchant who understood Islamic Economics.

Hamzah (photo) had said the rise in living costs is God’s will, and quoted a saying, or hadith, attributed to Prophet Muhammad which states: “Verily, it is God who sets prices, who makes things hard, easy and gives out blessings”.)

Having read what Hamzah said and what was reported, why is Tengku Adnan taking umbrage? In the first place, what is the co-relation between God and food prices? What mortal sin have the journalists committed to face the wrath of God?

These are not problems but self-inflicted damage because most politicians open their mouths without engaging their brains in gear. When their words sometimes border on the ridiculous and ludicrous, they think they have found the escape hatch – blame the journalist and the media.

No journalist worth his salt wants to be labelled as a purveyor of fake or false news. Neither does he want to be accused of “manufacturing”, “creating” or attributing quotes which have been picked from thin air.

Editors who re-write to slant news

In some sections of the mainstream media, journalists have complained that their copy had been re-written by editors and seniors to slant towards certain parties and individuals. The editor has the final say and when he exercises his power, the only recourse the journalist has is: “I don’t want a byline as I don’t want to be associated with this article.”

There are few who take such courageous steps while many remain silent as they too become tools of the editor, usually a political appointee.

At a World Press Freedom day seminar a few years ago, I remarked that journalists first need “freedom from their editors” before even talking about anything else. The in-house censorship, the re-write desk and those politically connected have and will continue to change the course of events.

When was the last time you came across “1MDB” in the mainstream newspapers? Last week, US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions described 1MDB as “kleptocracy at its worst” in practice. That is how our country was described. It was not fake news. It was from a man in authority speaking of an organisation which was set up with taxpayers’ funds and has incurred billions of ringgit in borrowings. Aren’t we, as Malaysians, entitled to know about a Malaysian-owned government company?

Did you read about it in your daily newspaper or did you hear it on our news channels? Was it not news worthy to be shared with fellow Malaysians? Herein are the problem and a big difference. Some editors are professional and decide what is good for the country while there are those who decide what is not good for the government and its leaders.

Many believe that the “government censors news” but it is far from the truth. No government official is present when the newspaper is put to bed. It is the editor who decides what you should read.

Having said that, editors have a role to play in ensuring journalists don’t get carried away by taking all and sundry presented to them as gifts. Attempts will be made to feed information by one party which is detrimental to another. They have to ensure that the organisation and individuals do not become tools of certain people.

But to harass journalists for reporting what was said is certainly unacceptable. Having suddenly realised what had been said sounded idiotic, don’t blame the journalists.

They should not be allowed to be bullied by the likes of Tengku Adnan. If this minister and his colleague are aggrieved by what has been written, there are proper channels. Journalists, who now have recording equipment, cameras and mobile phones as tools of their trade, will be able to substantiate what they had written. Therefore, the likelihood of journalists misquoting anyone has been minimised.

It is rather surprising that no one has come to the defence of the journalists. Editors should not succumb to threats. They must be able to draw a thick line between the citizen’s right to know and officialdom’s attempt to cover wrongdoings.

So, let journalists do their jobs without outbursts, threats or invoking the name of the Almighty at the drop of a hat. We are doing them a service in educating, entertaining and informing our fellow citizens on issues that affect all of us. If that cannot be done, then the government will have to replicate the Pravda, a relic of what used to be the Soviet Union. Surely, we can’t come down so low.


R NADESWARAN is passionate about journalism and says freedom of expression and free speech must be encouraged and practised for democracy to thrive. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

Looking Back in Time–Zunar the Cartoonist Par Excellence


October 1, 2017

Looking Back in Time–Zunar the Cartoonist Par Excellence

Malaysia’s Embattled Cartoonist Zunar Wins Freedom Award

by Asiasentinel Correspondent

Embattled Cartoonist Zunar Wins Freedom Award

Despite the threat of nine counts of sedition and 42 years in prison, cartoonist continues to zing Prime Minister.

Zunar earlier this month became the first full-time cartoonist to receive the International Press Freedom Award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.  In his acceptance speech in New York, Zunar said it is “both my responsibility and my right as a citizen to expose corruption, wrongdoing and injustice.” His mission, he said, is to fight through cartoons. “I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink.”

berthelsen zunar 113015-1

If it is sedition to make serious fun of a demonstrably corrupt prime minister and his money-grubbing wife, we are with sedition all the way.  In support of a courageous and daring individual, supported by an equally courageous news organization, we present a selection of Zunar’s cartoons.

 

Smooth Talking New Yorker Le Mooch–Trump’s Hatchet Man in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave


July 28, 2017

Smooth Talking New Yorker Le Mooch–Trump’s Hatchet Man in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

by David Remnik

http://www.newyorker.com

Image result for Mooch Scaramucci

Le Mooch–Trump’s Lapdog–Hatchet Man. Scaramucci seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests.

Customarily, when you are in the first couple of weeks of a new job, it’s best to learn the names of the people around you, absorb the rudiments of your new workplace, maybe figure out the lunch situation. This was clearly not the way of Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director for the Trump White House. The Mooch is a man in a hurry. But while he looks to most like someone racing into a wall, he is, to his patron, doing precisely what is required.

Within moments of arrival, Scaramucci was declaring his everlasting fealty to the President (“I love the President”), erasing the digital evidence of his previous contempt for the President (“an inherited money dude from Queens County”), and comparing his relationship with Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, to that of Cain and Abel, the killer and the killed. And then, the other night, he called Ryan Lizza, of The New Yorker. First, Scaramucci tried in vain to unearth the source who revealed that he had dined at the White House, and wrongly presumed it was Priebus. He then went on an obscene tirade about Priebus’s mental stability, Steve Bannon’s dorsal flexibility, and, most alarming of all, his intention to “fucking kill all the leakers” by employing the capacities, human and technological, of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” Scaramucci told Lizza. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.” He then ended the nearly nine-minute colloquy by saying, “Yeah, let me go, though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy”—meaning Priebus—“crazy.”

The reaction to all this was predictable. It roiled, yet again, the sense of vertigo that has accompanied the Trump era. And there were laughs all around, can-you-top-this jokes on Twitter, gleeful one-liners on late-night television, grave pronouncements on the morning shows. And yet the reaction that matters most was that of Scaramucci’s patron, the President of the United States. Mike Allen, the co-founder of the Web site Axios, wrote, “We’re told the President loved the Mooch quotes.”

Of course he did. After all, Scaramucci was, in language and in manner, channeling Trump himself. What about Scaramucci’s rant could possibly have offended Trump’s sense of propriety, dignity, or politics? As so many audiotapes, tweets, interviews, and speeches have made clear, Trump has no compunction about treating people, even his most self-abnegating loyalists, as vassals; he speaks in the language of obscenity and contempt. What previous President could have delivered an oration so filled with political bile that his host, the Boy Scouts of America, would find it necessary to apologize to anyone who might have been offended? He is unique.

Scaramucci, who was endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon. Jeff Sessions. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller.

In other words, the Mooch matters because the Mooch–The new White House Iago- helps to clarify what matters most to the President and his family. What matters most is Trump’s grip on his base voters and his survival in office. Everything else—a sane health-care policy, the dignity of the transgender people who have volunteered to serve their country, a rational environmental policy, a foreign policy that serves basic democratic values, rule of law—is of tertiary interest.

Trump’s focus is not impossible to divine. He is increasingly anxious that Mueller and congressional investigators are exploring the details of his business transactions and financial holdings, and how they might have exposed him to being targeted by the Russian government.

In the meantime, Trump’s capacity to demean and diminish everyone in his proximity continues apace. H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, is said to have an increasingly rocky relationship with the President, and to have been on the receiving end of his contempt; Secretary of Defense James Mattis was informed of the ban on transgender soldiers merely as a courtesy; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finds himself in a turf battle with Trump’s son-in-law, who believes himself capable of untold diplomatic achievements. How long can these people last? Priebus, Bannon—if they are swept away, do not expect them to be replaced by models of probity.

Image result for Mooch Scaramucci with Donald Trump

Lapdog Le Mooch and his Master, Donald J. Trump–The 45th POTUS

Last week, while Trump was battling to repeal Obamacare, Scaramucci told CBS, “I don’t know if he’s going to get what he wants next week, but he’s going to get what he wants eventually, because this guy always gets what he wants. O.K.?” Scaramucci matters because he has divined what Donald Trump wants, and he is speaking in his language. Last night, John McCain and many others refused to be cowed or intimidated. They acted in favor of the most elemental notion of rationality and principle. Who else will follow?

Video: How Trump Could Get Fired

The Constitution offers two main paths for removing a President from office. How feasible are they?

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.

Is America Still Safe for Democracy under Trump?


May 27, 2017

Is America Still Safe for Democracy under Trump?

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-04-17/america-still-safe-democracy?cid=%3Fcid%3Demc-facebook_live_may-is_america_still_safe_for_democracy-052

Why the United States Is in Danger of Backsliding

by ROBERT MICKEY is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and the author of Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep South, 1944–1972.

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini


May 26, 2017

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The Malaysian government, having gone after social media platforms and a long list of other social critics, is now turning its attention to Malaysiakini, the most influential of the country’s independent news portals, and increasing its detention of social activists.

Amnesty International and Article 19, two international rights organizations, have condemned the government’s decision to press charges against Premesh Chandran, the Chief Executive Officer, and Steven Gan, the Editor of Malaysiakini. The charge relates to a press conference in July of 2016 in which a critic was filmed taking on Attorney- General Mohamad Apandi Ali for clearing Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption charges.

The detentions and charges take place in a darkening political mood in the country among the political opposition, journalists and others critical of the regime headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has managed to continue his rule for months despite deep concerns over his integrity.

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

As “Public Official 1” Najib faces investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit for having purchased, through surrogates, hundreds of millions of dollars of US property with money stolen from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund. The fund is believed to have lost as much as US$11 billion through theft and mismanagement. At least US$1 billion and as much as US$2 billion appears to have ended up in the Prime Minister’s bank accounts.

The gloom has been added to by the fact that shortly after the US election President Donald Trump called Najib in the middle of the night to wish him well and to invite him to Washington.  Since that time, Trump has abruptly fired Preet Bharara, the crusading United States Attorney in New York and dismissed all of the other regional US attorneys appointed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. While the US attorney position is a political one and the real investigations are carried out by Justice Department professionals, Washington is in such disarray because of missteps by the Trump administration that many have concerns that probes such as that being carried out against Najib and his associates and relatives will be lost in the woodwork.

Image result for Confident Najib RazakDespite scandals and corruption in his administration, Najib Razak will be difficult to dislodge because strong support from UMNO, Sabah and Sarawak
 

Domestically, Najib appears impossible to dislodge. He continues to have the full backing of the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest ethnic political party, and is expected to call an early election later this year to solidify his position for another five years. The opposition remains fragmented and squabbling, with its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in jail on what are considered to be trumped-up charges of sexual perversion.

Against that backdrop, Amnesty international charged that, starting May 15,  authorities notified activists from the Bersih campaign reform organization that they were being investigated for failure to provide Police with a 10-day notice to hold a candlelight vigil for human rights defender Maria Chin Abdullah. Three more activists were summoned by police for making statements “conducive to public mischief” on May 24 and continue to be held.

“Amnesty International is alarmed that the authorities are increasingly responding to activities that aim to express dissent and protest against injustice with baseless police investigations,” the rights organization said in a prepared statement. “These recent actions by the police highlight an escalating pattern of misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass political activists and human rights defenders that Amnesty International has documented over the last few years. These actions have further restricted public debate in Malaysia and reduced the space in which civil society operates.”

Malaysiakini remains the biggest and most credible opposition voice, with 5 million unique visitors per month in a political milieu in which the next election campaign is likely to be fought out to a large extent in social media.  The 18-year-old news portal has been repeatedly raided and harassed by authorities.

The current charges against Gan and Chandran stem from a July 26, 2016 press conference in which a former UMNO official, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, called for Apandi Ali’s resignation for clearing Najib of corruption allegations linked to 1MDB after Najib had suddenly fired Apandi Ali’s predecessor, Abdul Ghani Patel, who was rumored about to charge the premier with corruption.

Malaysiakini carried film of Khairuddin’s charges on its streaming video unit KiniTV Sdn Bhd. Gan was charged under  the Communications and Multimedia Act last Novemer. Chandran was charged on May 15 of this year.

Authorities asked Malaysiakini to remove the footage last year but the news portal refused to do so.

“The Attorney General is just kind of like wanting to take up action against us,” Chandran said in a telephone conversation from London, where he is on sabbatical. “But it gives us a good opportunity to fight the charges on constitutional grounds.”

The charges follow recent claims by Najib ”that freedom of expression and press freedom are ‘thriving’ in Malaysia,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programs at ARTICLE 19, a London-based human rights organization with a chapter in Malaysia. “These charges underscore why the vague and sweeping Communications and Multimedia Act needs urgent reform. The increasing use of this law to target independent media and any online criticism of the government is seriously concerning, and also a clear violation of international human rights law on freedom of expression.”

Since 2015, the Malaysian government “has arrested, investigated and charged media personnel, whistleblowers, opposition politicians, artists, students, civil society and social media users for voicing their concerns over the 1MDB scandal,” Article 19 said in a prepared statement, pointing out that the government has also made wide use of the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Security Offenses and Special Measures Act in the attempt to suppress dissent.

It called on the government to immediately drop the charges against Chandran, Gan and KiniTV and to enact comprehensive reforms to the communications act and other laws used to restrict criticism of the government.

That is highly unlikely. With elections looming sometime over the next year, most observers in Malaysia expect the government to crack down harder as the polls approach.

Get it right with the media


Get it right with the media

Image result for Malaysiakini
Image result for Malaysiakini logo

In conjunction with World Freedom Day on May 4, it’s only appropriate for the media to urge leaders and politicians to treat the media with respect.

If leaders don’t like the way they are questioned, the media may be barred from attending press conferences or requests for interviews with them can be rejected.

Unfortunately, journalists are taken for granted and shooed away like goats in a barn. No other profession is treated and criticised as journalists and the media are marked and ridiculed by leaders.

As a ‘no-Internet-censorship’ commitment was part of the Malaysian government’s promise when it launched the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia enjoys unrestricted Internet access and a space for independent media outlets to operate.Unfortunately, as of 2017, Malaysia ranked 144th on the World Press Freedom Index.

Having been a journalist for more than 35 years, taught journalism, media relations and authored five books, I feel that the constant harassment of journalists should stop. Only then can Malaysia see its freedom index improve to a higher notch.

To move up the ladder of the Freedom Index, here are some tips for leaders to work well with and maintain good relations with the media. The confrontations with the media must cease and leaders need to train themselves on how to work with the media and not fight with the media.

Get it right

Therefore, understanding the media and saying the right things at the right time is the first step a candidate to succeed in the 14th general election. A candidate’s better perception of the media will gain greater positive media coverage in the media.

With GE 14 looming in the next few months, perhaps October, it is important for candidates to position themselves in the right media with the right message.

Politicians should stop blaming the media and face the truth. As this week commemorates World Press Freedom, it must be reiterated that the media has attempted to give two sides of the story all the time to make it a balanced article for its audience.

Individual politicians from both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan parties, meanwhile, have verbally attacked reporters who ask questions to unveil the truth.

Certain online media outlets have also been banned from covering press conferences after the UMNOo SupremeCcouncil meetings at the party’s headquarters at PWTC in Kuala Lumpur.

Need for transparency

Image result for Sarawak Report's Brown

This certainly does not speak well for transparency. The lack of training for leaders in facing the media has made politicians appear sloppy, dumbfounded and tending to put their foot in their mouth at press conferences.

When a leader develops better skills in media relations, you are on the road to the victory of being elected and this is only one part of the journey.

Every other news headline and story on online news portals goes to show the weakness of a politician in the way they speak to the media and the blunders they make. It’s because politicians take the media for granted and think they can get away from liability in their statements, thus making it into the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Therefore, one has to master the skills in facing the media when being interviewed, at press conferences, in writing effective press statements and maintaining excellent interactions with the media.

This is the first step to build greater hope for the leader in winning as a candidate in GE 14. A candidate may think he has a ‘cool’ relationship with the media, but the media may perceive otherwise.

So, how does one build a cool relationship to win in GE 14? If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Media relations training

Image result for freemalaysiatoday

In whatever field, learning is a journey. Without the passion to learn techniques in facing the media, a candidate’s chances of winning are dim.

No one candidate is perfect. To err is human. It is in this spirit that leaders can improve practical knowledge through training to improve their skills on how to face the media.

As part of Malaysiakini’s corporate social responsibility (CSR), it has organised eight courses to help leaders perform better with the media.As a facilitator the workshops, I realise that from learning comes understanding and knowledge in being a better politician to serve the people better.

Knowledge sets us free, for it is ignorance that will make one inadequate as a politician or leader.

Let’s start with lesson one on key messages.

Key messages are phrases and sentences that will help the leader deliver his or her views on what is important for the community to know.

Today, the popular way to win the hearts and minds of the electorate is to convey your key messages in a story-telling style or manner.It must be clear, free of jargon and be relevant to your audience or constituents. Be concise and deliver key messages to be understood in simple storytelling language.

Key messages

At the same time, key messages must be consistent and must be repeated so that it sinks into the minds of the people. So, when facing the media, stay focused on the messages that will help prevent you from being “taken out of context” or saying something “you did not say”.

The key messages should be reiterated in the opening statement to the media in an interview, press statement or a press conference.Being clear is straightforward. Don’t make your audience feel stupid, and they will not forgive politicians. This will be reflected in the way they vote for or against a politician.

Some samples of key messages:

  • Thank you for your continued support. Remember, I am here to serve you. I have given this constituency my top priority in the past, present and will continue to do so in future.
  • I have been transparent at all times and I will continue to voice your grouses on injustice, wrongdoings and constructive views to make Malaysia a progressive nation.
  • People may be angry and emotional over the blunders and mishaps or the government. It is my responsibility as your elected representative to present your views so that your grievances are heard and rectified.
  • I will continue to engage with this constituency to set things right for all to benefit.
  • I will continue to work with the authorities to help you all in this critical and difficult times.

Practice makes perfect. So, try using positive statements with the people’s welfare in mind. Say it with sincerity and conviction as you can’t fool the people. And be sure to demonstrate in action and deeds what you say.

Get down to soiling your hands, if you have to clean up the environment for a day with the constituents. Listening to problems will not help. As a politician you have to solve the people’s problems.

 


M KRISHNAMOORTHY is a media coach, associate professor and a certified Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) trainer. As a journalist, he has highlighted society’s concerns and has gone undercover as a beggar, security guard, blind man, handicapped, salesman and as a Member of Parliament. He also freelances as a fixer/coordinator for CNN, BBC, German and Australian TV networks and the New York Times.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.