Friday, September 5, 2008

Wartawan atau pusat kewartawanan perlu 'bertakwa'?

Eric Loo mempunyai kolumnya sendiri di akhbar 'on-line' Malaysiakini. Beliau adalah pensyarah Kewartawanan saya di UiTM dulu (1984). Baru-baru ini tulisan Eric yang kini seorang pensyarah sebuah universiti di Australia, bertajuk 'Not Islamic or Western - just good or sloppy journalism' menarik perhatian saya.

Beliau menulis berdasarkan satu artikel Bernama yang kemudian dipetik akhbar Timur Tengah bertajuk 'Malaysia Proposes International Islamic Journalism Centre' (Malaysia Cadangan Penubuhan Sebuah Pusat Kewartawanan Islam Antarabangsa). Artikel itu memetik Menteri Penerangan, Zainuddin Maidin sebagai berkata media Barat mempunyai agenda memperkecil-kecilkan Islam dan orang Islam.

Sehubungan itu, Malaysia mencadangkan penubuhan sebuah pusat kewartawanan antarabangsa Islam bagi menghadapi ketakutan dan kebimbangan kepada Islam (Islamophobia) dan membimbing wartawan bukan Islam mengenai Islam dan orang Islam.

Berikut disiarkan petikan artikel daripada Malaysiakini itu.

Not Islamic or Western - just good or sloppy journalism

By Eric Loo

Islamic journalism? Theoretically interesting. And, practicable too, if journalists of the faith know how they can offer an alternative narrative to the conflict-driven sceptical views of the world common to the secular media.

What news will 'Islamic journalism' cover that the secular media are not already offering? How will it portray worldly issues and popular culture considered to be haram and halal? How will an Islamic media set itself apart from the world of infidels and mega-corporate advertisers? How will it frame the concerns of citizens in a multi-religious society like ours?

These questions came to mind when I received an emailed article 'Malaysia proposes Int'l Islamic Journalism Centre' published in The Middle East Times and The Journal of Turkish Weekly (May 3, 2006), which I circulated to my graduate journalism class.

The intro read: Muslim heavyweight Malaysia has proposed setting up an international Islamic journalism centre to counter mounting Islamophobia and coach non-Muslim journalists about Islam and Muslims, reported the official Bernama news agency.

The article quoted Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin as saying that Western media had an "agenda to belittle Islam and Muslims". He called on the Malaysian media to "expound our views and opinions about our culture, our society ... our religion so that others may know what Islam is really all about". This, he said, would correct what he implied was the Western media's ideological misrepresentation of the Muslim world.

Zainuddin's view, derived from a casual reading of the Western media framing of Islam with terrorism post-9/11, misses the fundamentals that drive the media - cash, contents, advertisers and audience.

Media ownership, demographic spread of the media and its audience, communications technology, literacy levels, audiences' purchasing power. These determine the basic format of the media, its contents, profitability and thus its sustainability. Islamic or Christian, Western or non-Western media - all have to deal with roughly similar fundamentals. No cash, no contents, no audience, no advertisers = no media. Let's look at the 'Islamic News Sites and Magazines' ( to see these fundamentals at play.

Alternative interpretation

Most of the Islamic newspapers share a common calling - from providing an alternative Islamic interpretation of the world to propagating Islam to unite all Muslims and ultimately re-establish a caliphate based on Islamic law.

The Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic Party media Al-Khilafah unapologetically lays claim to this calling. A sample of its headlines read: (Accessed 05/05/07)

* Clarifying the meaning of Dar al-kufr and Dar al-Islam;

* Darfur's crisis requires a solution from Islam;

* An introduction to the Islamic Economic System;

* An introduction to the Islamic Social System

A cursory look at Al Jazeera came up with a non- (rather than an anti-) Western view of issues in the Arab world. Here's a sample of its headlines: (Accessed 03/05/07)

* Distorting Palestinian's history

* Nasrallah 'respects' Israel for damning war report

* Maliki seeks international help in Egypt

* Car bombing kills 9 US troops in Iraq

* Israel continues violations of Lebanon's airspace

Arab journalism? Maybe. Journalism specific to realities in the Arab world? Certainly, going by the story topics.

The journalism of Al-Khilafah, despite its Islamic slant, and Al Jazeera are as conventional as journalism in Africa or America as far as its package of stories and narratives on Middle-East politics go. Both are as selective in its contents and ideology as the Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, and other outlets from the English-speaking countries, which Zainuddin loosely lumped as 'Western'.

Islam and Christianity both defer to doing good, to serve the causes of justice and to abide by the 'Word' of truth. Just as the interfaith media outlet - among the most prominent being the Jewish publication Tikkun - which aims to "heal, repair and transform the world", can we assume that an 'Islamic' journalism will do the same? Or, in the Malaysian context to uncover corruption in the public sector, to address social injustices and institutionalised discrimination, 'to heal and repair' race relations?

Passive journalists

An 'International Islamic Journalism Centre', despite its constructive goal to educate journalists about Islam, will make no difference to a system where passive journalists are complacent with equally passive social reporting, cued by editors who are chronically beholden to the government. Passive journalists pose the severest form of threat to Malaysian media as a public trust.

Behind the fa硤e of introducing an Islamic Journalism Center lies the critical but seldom asked question of what Malaysian journalists and their editors should consciously do to lift their act and improve their public credibility via their journalistic output and identity.

Another question is where can we draw the line between the kind of stories that Zainuddin would consider fair to the Muslim world and those that he considers damaging. Given that media operations in the Muslim world, Malaysia for instance - compared to the 'Christian' West - are heavily circumscribed by draconian laws and regulations, what is considered to be biased and fair coverage is often lost in its translation to the political sphere. Reports are only as biased as they do not meet with the political interests and entrenched biases of the accusers. Zainuddin's vacuous criticism of BBC's interview with Anwar Ibrahim represents the ridiculous extreme of the media bias argument.

Imagine what Malaysian journalists would write about if the press laws were thrown out the window today? They'd be like birds flying free for the first time - exposing intellectually-challenged politicians undeserving of their public office.

Bad journalism happens when journalists lack the clout, resources or inclination to investigate into public interest issues. Where a newspaper will pull an opinion column by a senior journalist who strays from the sycophantic newsroom culture, and where critical commentaries on Malaysian affairs by Malaysian writers residing overseas are considered inappropriate for publication - indeed, that kills the newsroom morale. Where bad journalism festers, good journalism dies.

Local press organisations, university journalism courses and media studies center have failed to advocate for higher standards of reporting. We deserve the media we get. On a more positive note, the gap is fast being filled by online media sites and professional bloggers - many of whom are former journalists disillusioned with the mainstream media.

The National Alliance of Bloggers could just be the proverbial thorn to probe the journalistic laggards to do better and aspire to greater heights. But before one can raise standards, one has to first establish them. Which makes it imperative that the NAB soon sets out its concrete code for ethical and responsible blogging - to make a difference.

Make it a NAB principle that no blogger shall claim privilege to anonymity. No name, no say. Raise the bloggers' awareness of the tenets of good journalism. Which is, information before they are disseminated in the public sphere must first be verified and corroborated for its contextual and factual accuracy.

After all, the issue is not whether one's journalism is "Islamic" or "Western". It's just good or sloppy journalism.

Halal dan haram

"Just good or sloppy journalism," demikian rumus Eric Loo. 'Sloppy' bermaksud tidak melaksanakan dengan cermat atau menyeluruh. Jadi Eric bermaksud, ada dua kemungkinan saja - iaitu kewartawanan yang baik atau kewartawanan yang buruk dan tidak ada kena mengena dengan apa dipanggil 'Kewartawanan Islam' atau 'Kewartawanan Barat'.

Satu perkara menarik yang disentuh Eric ialah berkenaan HALAL dan HARAM. Apa yang halal dan apa yang haram? Seorang wartawan Muslim tentulah arif tentang halal dan haram. Halal dan haram bukanlah berkenaan dengan makanan saja seperti difahami sesetengah orang tetapi merangkumi seluruh bidang kehidupan.

Apakah wartawan dan media massa Muslim Malaysia kenal dan mengambil kira halal dan haram secara keseluruhannya? Tentulah halal menyiarkan berita yang benar dan haram menyiarkan berita tidak benar. Tetapi apakah media massa Malaysia mengambil kira perkara ini? Apakah memutar-belitkan atau memusing-musingkan (spinning) berita itu halal?

Selain itu apa yang halal dan haram? Menyiarkan iklan makanan halal tentulah halal tetapi menyiarkan iklan minuman keras itu tentulah haram. Menyiarkan waktu solat itu tentulah halal dan mendapat pahala tetapi menyiarkan keputusan empat nombor ekor itu tentulah haram, mendapat dosa dan mengundang bala.

Menyiarkan rencana yang menceritakan bahana berpakaian mendedahkan aurat tentulah dapat pahala tetapi menyiarkan gambar separuh lucah tentulah berdosa dan mengundang diri ke neraka.

Tetapi inilah dibuat oleh media massa Malaysia termasuk yang dikuasai dan diterajui orang Islam. Karyawannya (penulis, wartawan, pengiklan, pegawai pemasaran dan sebagainya), kebanyakannya kenal dan tahu apa itu halal dan haram tetapi kenapa mereka campur-adukkan yang halal dan haram?

Jenguklah ke kedai dan gerai jualan akhbar dan majalah. Kebanyakan bahan pameran berunsur seks dan tahyul. Gambar perempuan separuh bogel bersepah. Akhbar 'Sunday Mail' yang diiktiraf arus perdana itu pun pernah diberi amaran kerana bebas bercerita kisah dalam kelambu.

Bagi mereka soal halal-haram ditolak diketepi, yang penting 'sales, sales, sales' agar produk yang mereka tawarkan laku dan mereka buat keuntungan besar. Pemikiran orang media sama seperti golongan kapitalis lain.

Jika pengamal media beragama Islam sendiri tidak peka pada halal dan haram, apa pula yang mahu disibukkan oleh Pak Menteri yang kononnya mahu mendirikan sebuah pusat kewartawanan Islam antarabangsa. Apa yang mahu 'diIslamkan' sedangkan media massa dalam negara pun tidak berpandukan hukum-hakam Islam?

Akhirnya, kepada mereka yang beriya-iya menubuhkan sebuah pusat kewartawanan Islam antarabangsa dan mengajar wartawan Barat mengenai Islam dan orang Islam, saya ingin bertanya apakah massa Malaysia diacu berdasarkan empat ciri yang wajib bagi Rasul iaitu sidik (benar), amanah, tabligh (menyampaikan) dan fatanah (bijaksana).

Rasulullah s.a.w. adalah contoh ikutan, jadi sifat yang wajib padanya, perlu diteladani dan menjadi ikutan termasuk wartawan dan pengamal media apatah lagi yang beragama Islam. Jika tiada sifat-sifat ini pada media massa Malaysia, usahlah bercakap mengenai pusat kewartawanan Islam antarabangsa.

Bagi kerajaan Malaysia, terutama Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi berusahalah melahirkan insan berilmu dan beramal. Kelak akan lahirlah jurutera beriman, doktor soleh dan juga WARTAWAN BERTAKWA!

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