MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The manufactured outrage against The Star

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”
- Oscar Wilde
From the New York Times archives (Oct 29, 1987) - Malaysia shuts down 3 papers: “The Malaysian government, saying it feared a racial explosion, closed three newspapers today, including the country's liveliest English-language daily, The Star.
“In the last two days, 63 politicians and leaders of citizens groups have been detained in a sweep against critics of the administration of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Among them is Lim Kit Siang, leader of the main opposition party, Democratic Action Party.”
Back then journalist friends of mine told me to think about the families of employees that were affected by this clampdown, the uncertainty, financial and otherwise, they faced because of the actions of the government of the day. My response was, why should there be any uncertainty when the The Star has a rich sugar daddy - the MCA - to cover the expenses of those involved for actions taken by their partners in the ruling coalition?
As a member of good standing - at least I think I was a member in good standing - with the establishment, I knew how things worked. We all did. Back in the good old days where the mainstream propaganda organs of the establishment were the only source of information, the The Star every now and then profited from its reputation as the problem child of the state. This enabled it to command by virtue of luck more than any sense of journalistic integrity, the respect of a compliant citizenry.
Let's not forget that Utusan Malaysia kicked out former National Union of Journalists president Hata Wahari for pointing out the fact that the mainstream press was indeed biased in favour of the establishment when reporting the news, or to quote Hata, "all mainstream journalists, especially of  Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and The Star should return to their true function as deliverers of objective information to the public, and not as tools of propaganda for the government, or any political party or individual, for their personal gain."
What is the appropriate reaction for journalists and members of the public when a propaganda organ of the state is sanctioned not for its reporting but because of a “mistake” which the state it serves, deems offensive?
Let us just unpack this mess.
1) The supposed “confusing headline and picture” which apparently could be seditious.
I am not going to sugar coat this. If this was any other religion, would this picture be considered seditious and would the concerns of believers of that religion be taken into consideration? The home minister claimed that - “It is highly inappropriate for the picture and the headline to be published on the same page, and it has caused confusion, misunderstanding and prejudice against Muslims, which could imply a connection with terrorism.”
Really? What “causes prejudice against Muslims” is when a university lecturer accuses an established opposition party of having a Christian agenda without offering any proof. What cause prejudice to Muslims is when the state organises an essay contest on an opposition politician which entails libelling the politician as racist and anti-Islam.
What causes prejudice is when Muslim politicians object to a chief minister of a state attending a buka puasa event and claiming he should embrace Islam if he wants to attend. What causes prejudice are unilateral conversions, smear campaigns by “Malay” propaganda organs, disappearances of religious figures, and unequal treatment before the law.
Why the suspensions?
This is not genuine outrage. This is a manufactured outrage. What this has done is allow opposition partisans to lash out at an establishment propaganda organ and certain Muslims to engage in some good old fashioned victimhood. Non-Muslims over the years had to develop a thick skin. We had to do this because nobody cares if we are offended. Hindus are offended that Indian preacher Zakir Naik has sanctuary in this country but the state could care less how they feel.
2) The Star suspending its editor-in-chief and executive editor.
Okay. Let me get this straight. The Star apologised for this mistake. As far as I can tell and as reported in the media, nobody from the state has asked for suspensions but the big shots over at The Star (and maybe the sugar daddies) have decided to censure their own pending an internal investigation.
What would this internal investigation reveal? The Star has already claimed that it was a mistake. Would the investigation reveal “radicals” within The Star who did this because they thought it would be an ironic commentary on the state of Islam. Would the investigations reveal that those suspended were part of a plot to ridicule Islam?
The only thing these suspensions demonstrate is that The Star will always bend over backwards to appease their master. It is not even; as if they ask how high when asked to jump, it is more as if they are jumping about on the spot whenever the gaze of their master is upon them.
3) What is offensive?
Malaysians, or maybe that should be non-Malay Malaysians, could give you a list of things they find offensive but somehow manages to escape the scrutiny of the state and the police chief, but what I really find offensive are comments by “public officials” who ask women reporters, “What are you wearing to bed?
But that is the way how the establishment views the mainstream press, right? As objects to fulfill whatever particular needs the state desires. In this case, it is the dissemination of information they view as appropriate even though most often that information is offensive to rational Malaysians all over the country.
This whole charade of a show-cause letter is pathetic. What could The Star say in its defence? The propaganda organ has already apologised. Perhaps what could be done is give control of The Star over to Umno. This way as defenders of ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’, those easily offended Muslims readers of The Star are assured that their sensitivities would be the main priority of the owners of The Star.
Should we be concerned about what is going on with The Star? Yes. Although this manufactured outrage is merely a distraction that The Star for whatever reason unwittingly played into, this is a taste of what is to come.
Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon and unless something changes, all independent (as in not state controlled) media will be touched.

S THAYAPARAN Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

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