Friday, January 25, 2013

Simply irresponsible reporting!

********************* In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. ******************* Reflection ***************** The Declining Day (Al-'Asr) 1. By the declining day, 2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss, 3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort  one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance. ******************** As usual, on the morning of January 13, a day after ‘Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat’ (the peoples uprising rally) in Kuala Lumpur, I read my papers and was shocked to see the headline of a Sunday edition of a daily which read ‘Simply irresponsible’ regarding what it called ‘the Opposition-led rally’. ******************** Under that headline, there were three subtitles which read; ‘Children, banners with provocative messages present’, 'Anwar threatens trouble if Pakatan loses election’ and ‘rally organisers did not adhere to all conditions, say police’. ********************* Three pictures were shown on the page; the lead picture showing a woman who was about to close her shop, another picture showed rubbish on the roadside and lastly a tired toddler who was fast asleep on his toy bicycle. ******************* Then while flipping through the pages inside, I noticed reports filed in by 15 REPORTERS (based their bylines printed on a page) on the peoples’ rally were mostly on the negative side of the event such as mentioning ‘condition not heeded at rally’, ‘children spotted in rally locations’ and ‘most in the dark over rally’s objective’. ********************* The pictures printed inside the pages too were to give a bad impression on the rally. There was a big picture (covering more than a half page) showing rally participants entering an almost empty Stadium Merdeka. Other pictures showed parents bringing in their children along and shops being closed. ****************** Although it was estimated that more than 100,000 people (PAS Deputy President and chairman of the organizing committee of the rally, Mohamad Sabu claimed 500,000 people thronged Stadium Merdeka and its vicinity, the paper failed to publish any pictures of the said crowd. *********************** Flipping through the pages of the daily and seeing that kind of reports and pictures being filled in by 15 journalists (oh, that a big crowd to be added to the number of participants) on the rally (the number of photographers covering the event was not mentioned) and browsing a few Malay dailies on that historic event, I could not help but recall my younger days as a reporter when I was assigned to cover South Africa first multiracial election in April 1994. ************************ In that election, African National Congress (ANC) headed by Nelson Mandela took part for the first time, won more than 60 percent of the votes but fell short of getting a two-thirds majority. Thus it had to share power with the white’s National Party (NP) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to form the National Unity Government in which Mandela became the first black to be sworn in as President of South Africa. ******************* Prior to the elections, rallies were held; I attended one called by ANC which was held in First National Bank (FNB) Stadium in Soweto, a vast black township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Some 100,000 people attended the rally in which the guest speaker was Mandela. ******************* In the stadium, I witnessed the uprising of the ‘ordinary’ South Africans; they roared and cheered wildly ‘Viva Mandela’ and ‘Viva ANC’ when their leader arrived and made a speech. ******************* When I was in Stadium Merdeka I could not help but compare it to the events I witnessed in the FNB Stadium. The scene and spirit of the people were almost the same. That spirit brought to the demise of the ‘white government’ and ended apartheid that has gripped the nation for several centuries. ******************** The event in South Africa is history so could readers just imagine what would happened after attending the rally in FNB Stadium, I filed in reports to be sent to my editors in Kuala Lumpur saying that children were seen there, some shops were being closed and the rally organizer did not adhere to the conditions imposed by police. ****************** If I did that, perhaps the editors would curse and shouted to me over the phone; “What rubbish and nonsense you are writing, you are just wasting our time and money for sending you there. What are you doing in the stadium? Are you blind; I read reports by international news agencies that 100,000 people attended the rally; why did you send that rubbish instead?” ****************** Regarding the coverage on the peoples’ rally in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps some reporters might have filed in ‘the usual stuff’ but their reports were ‘spin’ by their editors. If this is the case, I pitied the reporters involved; perhaps they should have a thought about their future in that news-house. ***************** Perhaps too before the reporters were sent on their beat, they were assigned and told to gather news within the scope given by their editors – “Ali, you focus on children attending the rally”, “Lim, you look up for conditions not heeded” and “Siva, be attentive to bad words spoken by their leaders.” ********************** 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. How's about our own media? The Indonesian 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, our media especially the Malay and English press has failed badly. Instead of playing a huge part in reforming readers, they 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). ***************** They are taking the wrong step because nowadays more and more readers are receptive to the new media including on-line 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. Regarding the peoples rally, there are hundreds of pictures in the internet showing Stadium Merdeka and areas surrounding it were filled to capacity; so who are the main target to be fooled by the papers concerned? ******************** Back to our main stream media; not long ago, they are front runners in splashing and blowing reports about people’s power in far away countries such as Tunisia, Syria, Egypt or even our neigbours, Thailand and Indonesia, 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. ***************** 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'. They event can’t notice the hundred thousands of people walking the streets of Kuala Lumpur even it is under their own eyes. ***************** Hundred thousand of ‘rakyat’ were attending the peoples’ rally on January 12, yet there were no ‘actual’ report and pictures about it by the majority of our main stream media but they could have reports and pictures spread out on the uprising of the peoples in Egypt, Thailand and Indonesia…oh that was simply irresponsible reporting! ********************* Comment ***************** Recently I read a Malay daily at a coffee-shop and while flipping across pages of its Sports section I was surprised to see two full pages allocated to four digits and Toto results. Is this ‘development’ more important than the peoples’ uprising since some of our papers ‘blackened’ the news and pictures of the rally?

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