KUCHING: The control of the media by the Barisan Nasional (BN) — whether real or perceived — had influenced the outcome of the just-concluded parliamentary election.
Media watchers believe that the image of the mainstream press as the mouth-piece of the government was detrimental to the government’s cause.
In the March 8 polls, BN was denied a two-third majority, its worst result since 1969. It also lost Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Perak to opposition parties, and failed to recapture Kelantan which is Parti Se-Islam Malaysia (PAS) stronghold.
Former chief editor of a local daily, Jeniri Amir said the control of media by BN boiled down to the ownership of media organisations that were related to political parties.
The owners dictate how these organisations work and operate - setting their own agenda which was pro-government.
“This makes the media including television not objective and unprofessional. This has deep repercussions and impact on the media as it lost its credibility,
“Once credibility is lost, it will be difficult to get it back,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.
Jeniri, presently a communication lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Faculty of Social Science, said the media in Malaysia had not learned from the 1999 parliamentary polls which saw a drop in newspaper circulation by 30 per cent at the height of the ‘Reformasi’ movement.
He said: “The media expect their readers to swallow whatever they said. The media today have to relook or review how they operate and set their agenda.
“It needs to give space to alternative views from the alternative front. Don’t blackout their news and practise ‘government say-so’ journalism.”
Media organisations must not underestimate their audience and readers’ intelligence, he said, adding that journalists should present views from all sides.
Education and exposure to foreign media had made the people more critical and discerning, he pointed out.
If media organisations continue to pile up their airtime and pages with blatantly pro-government articles, people would turn away and go to the Internet, he said.
“The media has to be professional and there are so many techniques in writing. It should be professionally biased technique and not totally black out on other stories,” he said.
Jeniri conceded that laws governing the mass media also put certain limitations on journalism but news organisations had no right to black out certain news.
Putting restriction on what the media should write would lead to negative effects as seen in this election, he said. “If this continues (putting restriction on media), I’m afraid the mainstream media will be sidelined, including news organisations in Sarawak,” he said.
Balanced and objective reporting would increase readership and advertising revenue, he said.
Jeniri added that “cosmetic changes” would be insufficient to increase readership but editorial content had to be changed as well.
Excessive news reports on BN over the years and particularly during the election time had caused many people to vote against the coalition on March 8 polls, said Bernama general manager Datuk Azman Ujang in a recent interview in the TV programme ‘Hello Malaysia’.
He said Malaysians were plainly fed up with pro-BN news reports in mainstream media and this led them to seek alternative media through the Internet.
One lesson BN and the media fraternity had learned was not to overkill pro-government news, he said.
In a way, he felt the media was partly to be blamed for the political tsunami experienced in the Peninsular Malaysia where BN lost four seats and failed to recapture Kelantan.
Democratic Action Party Sarawak chairman Wong Ho Leng said at the rate of interaction in the cyberspace, he expected a tsunami to occur but never imagined it to be so ‘humungous’ as to unseat BN in 82 parliamentary constituencies in the election.
He said in professing democracy, the media should be allowed to report, freely, fairly and truthfully instead of blacking out opposition stories, which in the end, backfired on the ruling government.
“To me, the truth has not been reported to the Prime Minister. He has only been told the good news, the good aspects of life and that is why the BN government had not been able to address the plight of the ordinary people.
“The BN people’s representatives had not been courageous to bring up the plight of the people and so the people sought an alternative way to get their voices across,” he said.
However, Wong, an avid blogger who has his own IT team, conceded that the level of Internet penetration was still low in Malaysia and predicted that it could take about 20 more years for the country to reach Sweden’s level of penetration, which was said to be the highest in the world.
He said it did not pay to underestimate the power of the new age media because even if most of the people did not have the facility or the know-how to surf the Internet, they would eventually be informed by those who could.
Using the analogy, ‘it only takes a spark to start a fire’, Wong said what the cyberspace exposed would soon be spread by word of mouth to the others and through handphone short- messaging.
“I rely on the Internet a lot. I believe all wakil rakyat should have a space where the people can interact freely with them. Each constituency may have some 50,000 voters, and so you cannot expect to reach all of them,” he said.
The Internet was also a great way to reach the younger generation and so by having a space on the net, an elected representative would be able to interact with their voters, Wong pointed out.
Wong said that he spent at least an hour and a half on the Internet daily, checking and replying to comments posted on his site and if he was not available, his IT team would do the checking and relay the messages to him.
However, he still believed that the main stream media would not become irrelevant even with the growing influence of cyberspace media . But the mainstream media must not succumb to pressure from quarters that could hinder free and objective reporting, he added.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) state vice chairman and election director Baharuddin Mokhsen claimed opposition parties in Malaysia had no access to the mainstream media.
He pointed out that BN leaders had over-played their successes and took readers as fools, thus the swing of votes to the opposition this time around.
“2008 is not like what it was 20 or 30 years ago. People are fed up with such news and will switch off their televisions. Maybe they will just watch the television news to get the election results,” he said.
Deprived of mainstream media, Baharuddin said it was part of PKR’s strategy to get news and views from respectable websites to be printed out and circulated among supporters and voters.
“Internet is the media of the future,” he said, adding that this would be inevitable as the society continued to progress. He hoped that from now on mainstream media particularly government owned television and radio stations would give fair treatment to all political parties because they were funded by tax payers’ money.
He added that it was time for candidates in Malaysia to emulate those in Indonesia and America in engaging in open debates aired throughout their countries and the world. Today The Borneo Post.The mainstream medias are much controlled by the Barisan Nasional and the freedom of journalism has been limited to please the PM on "the only good news" projection. Zainuddin lesson (lost his seat) on the last election is the signal from the readers and viewers on the BN mainstream medias. "The New Strait time tells us the truth and we must read only The News Strait Time " said Tun Mahathir during his speech with the NGO last year (criticized).
It is obvious that our main stream medias have been used by the Barisan Nasional to tell their propagandas and manifestos. "Yang telus hanya dari RTM 1". What a lie to me. At 8.00pm during the news broadcasting, I will watch only sport news. Thats it.
The Star news paper is the thickest new paper that I ever have in Malaysia. I do not read The News Strait Time and Berita Harian or Harian Malaysia. There is nothing much you know if you read these news papers or watching the Malaysian television news. You will get influenced by the unprofessional circulation and news. Last Bersih rally was called illegal by all the media but the truth is that the people has no other way to voice up their rights and struggles.
In every media, the government propaganda must be the first priority to tell the readers that our government is good and always good everyday. "The government has done this and that. Building this and that, helping here and there, there must be no worry to follow the government order bla, bla...". This is Malaysia media style. TV3 is even worst. There is less truth to prevails. The pig farm and the rain forest demolition are the only 1% truth of the whole truth.
The best way to view Malaysian scenario and point of views form other non-government media is through internet and blogs. The first Bersih rally news was rotten and condemns by all the local media. But the Al-Jazeera told the whole world that the purpose of the rally is for fair and transparent election and not to against government. The BBC news told that the rally is the only way for the people of Malaysia to voice up their worry on the next coming general election. But all the local media marked it as "Perhimpunan Haram oleh Pembangkang" and the next day there were some of the opposition leaders have been arrested in the Parliament lobby and the at roadside.
Blogs have turned the Malaysian ways of receiving news and updates in the country. The Malaysia today was mark by Zainuddin Maidin as "non-sense" and people must avoid reading Malaysia Today blog. There were series of DOS attack on the server and the arrestment of the editor. That is the price if we tell the truth. We will be charged under the laws (irrelevant) and will be put into jail. These bloggers are the government threat therefore they must be blame and condemn under the unjust national law and order.
The last general election were much influenced by the bloggers where the truth is prevailed including the government mistakes on their action and behavior on the people rights. This is paradigm shift that the pro-government medias should aware of. The Barisan Nasional should now stop their control over the media and truth must not be hide. The people has rejected Security, Peace, Prosperity by the Barisan Nasional and put their eyes on transparency, equality and justice.
The truth are always been aired in the independent news and blogs. The only way to hear the truth is turn off your TV and Radio and surf the internet. All the news have been filtered though levels of edition and then it only can be broadcast. The bad news must be hidden under the table and tell PM the only good news.
The unprofessional way of news broadcasting also be the main reason why people do not watching the news. "The opposition party are evils and cunning. Do not believe in opposition or else you will live in poverty. Or opposition failed to do this and that and so forth bad news on the non-government parties" . This is a norm for the pro-BN media to attract the ignorance and shallow thinkers viewers.
The lost of 5 state to the opposition is the great lesson for the media to change the way of their broadcasting. The truth must be told so that they are not as same as Gado-Gado news broadcasting. Funny to hear that the medias alway inaccurate and only use by the Barisan Nasional to tell all the lies to the people. The BN media has change their Tv program to more cartoons and no news on the BN defeat. The blog sites were jammed and some have been attacked by DOS. The BN cyber troopers tried to close all the non-BN media with any way that could be done.
This is the reality of the pro-BN medias. Tell only the hidden truth and the rest will be deleted by the Ministry of Information. This is to tell the whole world that we are living under Security. Peace and Properity but yet the people feel the great struggle under the unjust and radical government.