PAS is both right and wrong in blaming the Keadilan’s rout in the Indera Kayangan by-election on mainstream media

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday)Information Minister Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob yesterday disputed PAS claims that Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN)’s rout  in the Indera Kayangan by-election on Saturday was  due to reports by the mainstream media, counter-claiming that Barisan Alternative allegations that the media was responsible for the PKN defeat was  merely an excuse to cover their loss.

PAS is both right and wrong, however, in blaming PKN’s rout in the Indera Kayangan by-election on the mainstream media - right in that the media, and in particular the three-week nightly Barisan Nasional political propaganda camouflaged as prime-time news on national television which doctored the CNN clips to paint the Barisan Alternative as representing Taliban Malaysia with PAS as the chief proponent and PKN as the abettor, had an overpowering effect on the Indera Kayangan voters in influencing their choice  on polling day.

Wrong in that it was the Barisan Alternative which allowed the mainstream media to have such a field day to dominate and monopolise the concerns and fears of the Indera Kayangan voters on the two foremost issues in the by-election, the post-911 political scenario and the Islamic state question, by a campaign strategy to avoid both issues.

I am still astounded, for instance, at the virtually total lack of response of PKN and PAS to the nightly 90-second political propaganda camouflaged as prime-time news over national television for the three weeks before polling to exploit the two-pronged strategy of the 911 terror card and to tar the Barisan Alternative with the Taliban Malaysia brush.

Many had commented that the DAP seemed more concerned than either PKN or PAS at the biased, unfair and tendentious political propaganda telecast although the DAP had announced that it would not contest or assist in the Indera Kayangan by-election, and asked me why the PKN and PAS had adopted such a passive and self-defeating  response when they should have gone to the courts at the first available opportunity to apply for an injuction to direct the cancellation of  such nightly telecast of political propaganda camouflaged as prime-time news.

I am still at a loss for an answer. May be the reason is to be found in the first public response by a PAS national leader who dismissed the nightly Barisan Nasional  propaganda broadcast on national television as of no consequence whatsoever on the ground that it would not be able to make any political impact or have any  political influence in the by-election.

Such political naivete was defended by apologists who could forecast that the 90-second Barisan Nasional propaganda footage would fail miserably in the by-election with airy-fairy  arguments that historical studies show that such propaganda “often mismatches, diverges and even backfires”, that “propagandists are not as smart, effective, efficient or efficacious”  and that the “ordinary people in the streets are not that credulous and malleable”.

If this was the PKN and PAS response to the nightly 90-second television propaganda footage camouflaged as news during the Indera Kayangan by-election, then it is too late for them to complain after the polling that the media was the cause of their defeat unless they are also prepared to admit to a wrong strategy and colossal  misreading of the impact of political propaganda in their earlier dismissal of  the potency of the Barisan Nasional propaganda footage.

DAP maintains that Khalil should publicly apologise for the abuse of public facilities and resources by the Information Ministry  in ithe  misuse of  public broadcasting as a propaganda machine of  the  Barisan Nasional in the Indera Kayangan by-election. This is a gross breach of public trust and misuse of public funds.

DAP calls for an all-party meeting to ensure that there would be no recurrence of the three-week nightly telecast of Barisan Nasional political propaganda camouflaged as prime-time news in the Indera Kayangan by-election in future by-elections and the next general elections and to draw up a Code of Conduct for public broadcasting to ensure fair and even-handed broadcast  of political propaganda by all political parties - whether in government or Opposition - during elections.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman