But this is not in itself unique to Malaysia, because in the Western democracies too, the media do have favourites, and have at times spinned furiously for their sides.
But what distinguishes the Malaysian MSM has been its (collective) ‘creativity’ in, just as a rotten example, reporting the Bersih rally was only 4000 strong - there was some serious basic counting problem there. I needn’t go into what it had reported on the other more significant rally by Hindraf. Where's the professionalism?
What do we do with the MSM then?
Johns said: “The first, easiest and most obvious, of course, is a massive boycott as advocated by Haris Ibrahim, Helen Ang and others, thus weakening and even ultimately destroying them commercially.”
But he added, obviously favouring his second suggestion: “A second alternative (Dean, ;-) would this be a tautology?), however fanciful it might seem at first glance, is to buy them. Star Publications and Media Prima, are, as they proudly boast, both listed on the KLSE.”
Johns suggested that opposition supporters (around five million of them) should consider throwing in around RM400 each, an amount they spent on newspapers annually anyway, to invest in MSM shares. Then the public could control these companies or own them outright. He termed such a move ‘shareholder activism’.
Would that guarantee an independent sector of the press? Who knows, but we may be sure of one thing, it’ll most likely be a lot better than what it is today, very unprofessional.
As another example of its non-professionalism, I found a Penang-originated paper not doing its public duty when it failed miserably to update the election results on that fateful Saturday, as the people's verdict became known. Thank goodness I was able to rely on Malaysiakini to find out what the heck was happening.
But like all surfers, I would have enjoyed a variety of feedback, and as a Penangite, I naturally turned towards an old (though no longer a) favourite.
Alas, that was not to be. God knows how many of its editors then went AWOL from their election night duties, probably clutching strips of panadol capsules as they bunkered down in shock, whilst their public audience wondered whether they had suffered a nuclear storm, knocking all electronic transmissions and receptions off. As they realized they couldn't spin anymore they must have abdicated that duty to the office spiders which then spun webs across their idle screens.
In a recent conversation with one of my uncles (yes, sweetie, I have many) he contrasted the newspaper’s performance with that of RTM in 1969. Uncle told me the following true story.
On the night of the 1969 general election, there was huge billboard at the Selangor Club padang (sports field), where election results throughout Malaysia were posted as they flowed in by phone calls. But notwithstanding the festive mood there that night, where the audience still sitting on their ubiquitious Honda Cups surrounded the padang, with each opposition party’s victory being greeted by loud roars of approval, and the teh tarik and sop kambing people doing a rip-roaring trade behind the General Post Office, the star of that night was RTM.
For the first time, RTM broadcasted beyond midnight and in fact (according to Unc’s recollection) into breakfast time.
The counting in those days were slower but by midnight, the Perikatan (Tunku’s Alliance) was already reeling as Gerakan, DAP, PPP and PAS made mincemeat out of the ruling party.
Unc remembered the RTM panel of announcers-analysers-guest speakers from all parties-etc, including an UMNO man on the panel who was very knowledgeable on political personalities, nature and composition of each constituencies (both Parliament and States) and political trivia etc.
He kept the broadcast really interesting but when he saw the Perikatan being chopped off at the knees, especially in Penang, Perak and Selangor, he became demoralised. He was more than ready to sign off by the scheduled time of midnight, when a man approached him from behind (seen on the screen), whispered in his ears, whence he turned to announced, words to the effect, “I have been instructed to continue broadcasting until further notice”.
That was the professionalism of the media in those days of Tunku. The audience was waiting, and the show must go on!
By contrast, that Saturday night of 08 March 2008, that particular newspaper virtually stopped updating its promised election results by around 9 pm (perhaps even earlier).
OK, so the BN lost badly, but where was the journalistic professionalism to keep the public informed?
Newspapers have a duty like the postman, where it must deliver come rain or shine. But one particular Malaysian MSM online news failed badly on the night of 08 March 2008.