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Monday, May 29, 2017

What happened to Khairy Jamaluddin?

We officially met about 10 years ago. Both of us were featured in the Kancil Awards Festival - Speakers Series & Advertising Unplugged, organised by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As).
He was not exactly a firebrand trying to gain recognition as a youth leader but touted as one of those Oxbridge bright sparks on the Fourth Floor of the Prime Minister’s Department. I had just returned from a Siberian-style exile imposed by the newspaper I was working for and breaking the Zakaria Mat Deros Palace scandal in Klang.
He was riding on a wave after having sought recognition for the Mat Rempit, arguing that they needed “some space”. He had also made history - setting up his own football team and challenging the might of the national team.
He was a young man with his head firmly screwed tightly to his shoulder. He could think on his feet; he inter-phased answers with wit and even the hardest questions were never met with any form acrimony.
Didn’t the doors open for him when he went knocking on doors for sponsorship of his team - My Team? Didn’t being the most famous son-in-law help his cause?
“Yes, it did open doors but I had to walk in and sell this idea to the private sector. I produced results. The game, telecast live by TV3, had the highest ratings. Telekom Malaysia sold in excess of RM10 million worth of pre-paid phone cards,” quipped Khairy Jamaluddin, the then deputy Umno Youth leader.
Since then, he has been saying almost all the right things - sometimes against the thinking of the party elders. From apparel worn by sportswomen to moral policing, he made his stand, garnering support because he was one of the few in the cabinet who never made nonsensical statements.
But on Friday, all those hallmarks and attainments came to the ground with a thud. He refused to field questions from Malaysiakini and accused the news portal of being a “purveyor of one-sided journalism”.
What happened to this righteous man who was media-savvy and said all the right things? Why the sudden turn against the news portal? What triggered it? Has Malaysiakini become the latest target after failing to make bogeymen out of communism, the Jews, the Western media, the DAP and Lim Kit Siang?
Khairy may have chosen not to remember that newspapers in his own party stable practised one-sided journalism when photographs of him allegedly downing the contents of a brandy glass appeared on the Internet.
Where was the voice of Khairy when the “attack dogs” and “packs of wolves” were hounding him and the then former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi? And for the record, the archives of Malaysiakini will show that it gave all sides of the story in almost all instances.
Newspapers and portals like the Soviet-era Pravda continued stoking the fire when Khairy’s purchase of shares of ECM-Libra became public. However much it was explained that his friend, ECM-Libra chief Kalimullah Hassan had provided him a loan, the attack packs were on his back.
Was it not Malaysiakini that gave extensive coverage to his father-in-law when he went on air to defend both Khairy and his brother-in-law Kamaluddin? Was it not Malaysiakini which carried excerpts from Wong Sulong’s book on how Abdullah had “to take the bullets for the fourth-floor boys”?
Everyone has right to disagree
Every journalist worth his salt believes in giving all sides of the story. All newspapers and organisations are expected to practise a “right of reply” policy. However, not everyone follows it.
Read the newspapers and there are one-sided stories, sometimes even quoting some disgruntled politicians saying something degrading of opposition leaders. Even bloggers who were once accused of being anti-national and banned are now “sources of news” for their one-sided reports.
For them, it may be the few lines of mention or a minute on airtime, but does anyone seek to get the other side? Hardly.
In my 17 years at theSun, I insisted that all letters disputing or making contentions with the newspaper contents should be published - however unpalatable they are. The reasoning is simple - don’t expect everyone to agree with you. Everyone has a right to disagree or take a different view. If we can give our views, so can the readers. Malaysiakini is no different. It accorded me the right of reply over an issue with the Selangor government.
But for Khairy to arbitrarily declare Malaysiakini of one-sided journalism without any substantiation makes the news. How does a minister suddenly come to such a conclusion? We can be assured that he had no intention of joining the ranks of his cabinet colleagues Ahmad Maslan, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Ismail Sabri Yaakob whose gaffes can be listed in the next edition of the book “Ministers say the darndest things!”
Out of the blue comes such a statement without corroboration or evidence. Why did he come to that conclusion when he was accorded coverage without any distortion or misrepresentation of what he said?
As a seasoned journalist, the mind wonders if there is even a bigger agenda than the now infamous rhetoric - “you are a purveyor of one-sided journalism”. Perhaps people with vested interests and their coterie of rent-a-crowd mobs are already on the drawing board mapping out plans to demonise their next target - the independent media.

R NADESWARAN is an award winning veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues with one agenda - a better quality of life for all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion. He can be reached at: citizen.nades22@gmail.com. -Mkini

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