In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
Never to despair of Allah
“Is Allah not enough for His servant? Yet they try to scare you with others apart from Him. If Allah misguides someone, he has no guide.” (Qur’an, 39:36)
EVERYONE has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and import information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. – Basic human rights as contain in Article 19 of the Global Declaration of Human Rights 1948.
I quote this declaration at a time when the Umno-BN government was about to make amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Acts (Akta Mesin Cetak dan Penerbitan, AMCP) to cover online content. Home Ministry Secretary-General Mahmood Adam said the changes will plug loopholes in the law.
It is also timely to reflect back this declaration when the vocal National Union of Journalist (NUJ) President Hatta Wahari has been suspended from his job after he heavily criticized his employee including editors of Utusan Melayu (publisher of Utusan Malaysia) for letting their papers being misused by certain Umno leaders for their own political agenda.
Hatta’s call was a brave one because Utusan Malaysia had become the mouthpiece of the ruling coalition with almost all principles of journalism kicked into the dustbin. Fair reporting is not given much attention. The main concerned was to dupe the people especially those living in rural areas including Felda settlers, with biased reporting to fish the support of Malay masses to support Umno-BN.
Utusan Malaysia keeps on playing and fanning the sentiments of the Malays on various issues such as ‘ketuanan Melayu’ (Malay supremacy) and those pertaining to non-Muslims entering masjid (mosque). The paper projects itself as the champion of the Malays, fanning them into believing that the PAS-PKR-DAP coalition (Pakatan Rakyat) is the culprit that eroded the Malay position.
Studies by universities showed that the mainstream media is biased and acts as mouthpiece of Umno-BN. By denying the voice of the people to be heard and seen (as shown by Pakatan Rakyat – PAS, PKR and DAP – conquering five states assemblies minus Perak a year later), the media especially the Malay press seems to shield away from the inspiration and spirit of its founding fathers for the reformation of the Malays shown by captains of print media such as Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi, Abdul Rahim Kajai and Ishak Haji Muhammad.
The truth is that the Malays were betrayed by some Umno kings who were only concerned about their own well being. They and their cronies had and are fulfilling their desires and wants of their bellies and the organs below it but at the same time making it hell for the ordinary people.
Recent developments showed and proved that Umno was the main culprit in the downfall of the Malays. In stressing this point, it gave opportunity to the Malay press and journalists to guide and reform the Malays as what has been done newspaper way back in the 1920s such as ‘Al-Ikhwan’, ‘Saudara’ and ‘Idaran Masa’.
Mass media especially newspapers in Indonesia (our neighbour) turned sides to almost 360 degrees from pro-Suharto to pro-rakyat during their revolution that saw the demise of that dictator who held helms for decades. The media played their roles well during the transitional period which led to the process of free and fair elections that saw leaders such as BJ Habibie, Gus Dur, Megawati dan Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) becoming presidents.
Unfortunately, the Malay press has failed badly as exemplified by Utusan Malaysia. Instead of playing a huge part in reforming readers as suggested by the NUJ President, they instead force them into the underside of the coconut’s shell just like the ‘peribahasa’ (proverb) ‘bagaikan katak di bawah tempurung’ (like the frog under the coconut shell).
The sales of Utusan Malaysia and other main dailies such as Berita Harian have dipped to one of the lowest point ever (both papers recorded a mere sales of about 120,000 copies daily compared to more than 200,000 copies a few years back) as more and more readers are receptive to the new media including online news portals, blogs, facebook and twitter.
It is in this new media, events, ideas, thought, critics and so on are shared thus awakening the masses on happenings around them including corrupt practice and mismanagement of those in power.
Unable to read balance reports from the traditional media, the new generation turns to the new media and in my opinion this development has resulted in the government’s move to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Acts to cover online content. This only shows that the government’s commitment to reform and civil liberty is merely superficial.
Back to the Malay press; nowadays they are front runners in splashing and blowing reports about people’s power in far away countries such as Tunisia and Egypt but one question is why they keep silent on the almost same development in our beloved country.
Why silence on abuse of power, corruption, and mismanagement and so on of a chosen few including those who were found guilty at party levels. It’s shocking that some of them still hold top government political post such as chairman of certain agencies and spearheading state governments.
One intellectual who admitted the similarities was a renowned Muslim writer Ziauddin Sardar who said problems regarding freedom of the judiciary institution and the press is common in Tunisia and Malaysia.
In these countries, the main stream media is merely tools of those few in power thus failed to acknowledge the growing needs and inspiration of the rakyat; the majority of them have to face hardship in life because of the rampant increase in price of essential goods such as flour, gas, petroleum and sugar.
The mass media failed to notice (or purposely failed to) those negative traits, thus turn a blind eye on them but have tendency to blow up developments involving the people’s power in far away countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
So do our mass media fit the Malay ‘peribahasa’ (proverb) – ‘kuman di seberang lautan nampak, bangkai gajah di depan mata tidak nampak’ which literally means germs in far away lands you could be see but the carcass of a dead elephant under your own eyes could not be noticed! And so this Umno-BN regim wants to keep the rakyat under the 'tempurung' by widening and making more stringent the Printing Presses and Publications Act!