Speaking at the opening of the RM270 million The Star Media Hub printing plant in Shah Alam, Abdullah described the three “absolute ingredients” as “the bedrock principle that cannot be compromised to gain material advantage or simply forgotten when it becomes convenient to do so”.
He stressed that news reports and analyses must be done in mature and accountable manner, and important issues should not be trivialised. Nor should those which are unsubstantiated be sensationalised. Events should be covered well and accurately. Messages put forth should be placed in their proper context and the essence of what is said should be captured carefully.
I fully agree with Abdullah with regard to the “three absolute ingredients” of integrity, honesty and fairness.to constitute the bedrock principle of journalism - not only for print but also electronic media.
However, the effect of Abdullah’s speech as an inspiring
benchmark to motivate Malaysian journalists to attain world renown
and respect in the world of journalism was completely spoiled by the three-week-long
flouting of these very principles by television journalism in the nightly
broadcast of the 90-second Barisan Nasional political propaganda camouflaged
as prime-time news - causing the Deputy Prime Minister’s call to fall like
a damp squib of meaningless platititudes.
Abdullah should haul up the Information Minister, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob and issue a clear directive that television journalism comply with the three “absolute ingredients” of integrity, honesty and fairness which he proclaimed for the print media yesterday.
For the past three weeks, there had been strong protests at the blatant and brazen abuse of government resources and facilities, double standards and sheer dishonesty in the camouflaging of political propaganda footage as prime-time news over television.
Salbiah Ahmad, writing in Malaysiakini yesterday, remarked that
“it doesn’t take a one-eyed mullah to discern the intent” of the 90-second
‘Taliban’ clip over national television. She said:
“When a government uses a public broadcast system to disparage the opposition, without providing the opposition with equal media access and opportunity, the argument could run that there is deliberate distortion to the communicative and deliberative processes needed for informed consent. The government’s broadcast is then not speech that deserves protection from challenge. The public’s right to information is denied.
“Governments in democratic systems must make every effort to avoid providing ‘information and news items’ with party political bias. There must be autonomy of public broadcast systems and agencies responsible for the administration of national resources allocated for that purpose.
“Ministers in charge are required to respect this autonomy and by convention (ministerial responsibility) must be held accountable to the public for breaches thereof. Our parliament has however, neither been enthusiastic in espousing parliamentary democracy nor vigilant in enforcing public accountability of errant ministers… "
Regrettably, in the past three weeks Khalil Yaakob had been totally impervious to good sense and public opinion that the propaganda footage should be clearly identified as Barisan Nasional political commercial, as it is clearly designed for the Indera Kayangan by-election to paint the Barisan Alternative as representing Taliban Malaysia, with PAS as the chief proponent and Parti Keadilan Nasional as abettor; ensure that Barisan Nasional pay the prime-time television commercial rates and allow the Opposition to also buy air time on local television channels.
I found last night that instead of acceding to public opinion of what is right and wrong, and stop broadcasting the propaganda footage as prime-time news, the Information Ministry had in fact aggravated and compounded the gross abuse of power misuse of government resources with new embellishments to the 90-second propaganda with additional clips, as a photograph of the PAS Deputy President Datuk Hadi Awang, a shot of the grieving widow S. Maliga whose husband detective Sgt. R. Sagadevan was brutally murdered by members of the Al-Maunah, US Vice President Al Gore speaking at the APEC Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November 1998 expressing support for reformasi and more gory clips of terrorism, violence and mayhem.
The biggest violator of the three “absolute ingredients” of journalism proclaimed by Abdullah yesterday is none other than the Information Ministry and television journalism, to the extent that the CNN film of the Taliban execution of an Afghan woman in burqa at the Kabul football field could be doctored to three close-range rifle shots in the head to dramatise the killing!
Abdullah should protect his own credibility and haul up Khalil Yaakob to ensure that the Information Ministry and the television stations set a good example and comply with these three “absolute ingredients” of journalism, viz. integrity, honesty and fairness - with the withdrawal of the 90-second propaganda footage as prime-time news as the first step.