Skip to content

Freebies for journos – integrity on the line

Sun 2015-May-17 @ MYT 08:43:47 am

Pushing the envelope of ethical journalism?


The way expensive gifts were thrown at journalists at the Premier Media Night on Thursday borders on ‘envelope’ journalism, yet Prime Minister Najib Razak who was in attendance has the gall to tell journalists how to do their job while the expensive gifts were dished out.

The golden cow consists of lucky draws for a brand new Peugeot 408 costing over RM100,000 on-the-road. Other freebies include bicycles and motorcycles, plus electronics such as two iPhone 6 (64 gigabyte) smartphones, Samsung Tab 4 tablets, and Samsung LED televisions of various sizes up to 75 inches, as well as a goodie bag for each guest consisting of an umbrella, crackers, a mug, a notepad, a flashlight, and a book on Islamic inheritance.

Najib Razak very taken up by the top prize of a Peugeot 408 at the Premier Media night.

Najib Razak very taken up by the top prize of a Peugeot 408 at the Premier Media night.

Altogether there were more than 600 prizes up for grabs last night for the gala attended by about 1,000 media practitioners, bloggers, civil servants, ministers, and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor. However, journalists from independent news portals like Malaysiakini were not invited.

I suspect there were not more than 300 working journos that night, the rest were made up by civil servants, bloggers, PR practitioners and hangers-on. The whole gala media night could cost over RM300,000 including the banquet and lucky draws. That works out to be RM1,000 per journo.

Well, that’s close to what is known as envelope journalism. It doesn’t matter if the gifts were sponsored, they still probably fall into the category of envelope journalism. It’s a different thing altogether when one bought a ticket to attend a charity or gala event and won a lucky draw. That is clear.

The envelope journalism phenomenon was virtually unknown among local journalists once upon a time but was a common practice in neighbouring countries where journalists are usually given an envelope stashed with cash for covering a press conference or interview. The one who takes the envelope understands that this entails a good write-up of a cover-up of some bad news or both. Read more…

The painful truth, not beautiful lies

Fri 2015-May-8 @ MYT 12:34:36 pm
Which Pakatan bigot has a problem with this?

Which Pakatan bigot has a problem with this?

Journalists for freedom

Sun 2015-May-3 @ MYT 12:07:45 pm

Freedom of the press, freedom of the people

The silencing of Malaysia

Sun 2015-May-3 @ MYT 10:33:40 am

Malaysia: A deafening silence

By Jahabar Sadiq
Editor, Malaysian Insider

We can speak our mind, publish our thoughts and be damned. Or in some cases, spend at least one night in the police lockup and wonder if there is jailtime at the end of the tunnel. For some, that is a badge of honor but for most, a symbol of shame.

To be fair, the Federal Constitution’s Article 10 allows for the freedom of expression with limitations. And the ruling government has guaranteed that the Internet will be free from censorship.

So there is freedom, of sorts.

One of the limitations comes from the recently amended Sedition Act 1948, which has cut out several offences that were once considered seditious such as criticising the government or the judiciary but adds new offences to cover the Internet age, ie. retweeting or republishing status posts, blogs, comments and such that are deemed critical or offensive by the prosecutors.

The Internal Security Act, which allowed detention without trial and used regularly in the past against the press and opposition politicians, was repealed in 2012 to be replaced with the Security Offenses Special Measures Act. It grants suspects the right to a fair trial, but allows 28 days of police detention, after which the attorney general must decide whether to prosecute.

Jahabar Sadiq, released after overnight police detention, for reports published by Malaysian Insider

Jahabar Sadiq, released after overnight police detention, for reports published by Malaysian Insider

A new law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, also allows for detention without trial. It has yet to be gazetted as law, just like amendments to the Sedition Act, but both are chilling in nature.

In many ways then, we have both the best and worst media laws in the region. And with endless possibilities through that spectrum. Read more…

Media witchhunt continues: now it’s Tong

Sat 2015-Apr-18 @ MYT 09:00:04 am

• Najib’s administration shows its vindictiveness
• 1MDB being treated as ‘sacred cow’
• Media under attack for doing their job
• Police treating journalists as criminals

A tax investigation has reportedly begun against Tong Kooi Ong, owner of the Edge media group, in what may clearly be regarded as part of a political witchhunt against media criticism and exposure of the government-owned and financially troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The investigation, reported by Malaysiakini yesterday, comes weeks after three editors of Malaysian Insider, its chief executive, and its publisher were arrested under the Sedition Act and held overnight in a police lockup.

Malaysiakini says the Inland Revenue is investigating Tong Kooi Ong

Malaysiakini says the Inland Revenue is investigating Tong Kooi Ong

Their arrests came half a year after Malaysiakini reporter Susan Loone was arrested in Penang, also under the Sedition Act, in what was clearly an act of vindictive harrassment by Umno politicians and the police.

The six are the first media people to face action under the Sedition Act since 1972 when Utusan Malaysia’s editor-in-chief and a subeditor were arrested and put on trial in a “test case” for a headline calling for the abolition of Chinese-medium schools, then considered an inflammatory topic and a so-called “sensitive issue”.

Plain vindictive harrassment

There is no rational basis for the current actions, except that of vindictive harrassment. None of the six have advocated the violent overthrow of the ruling government or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong: an action that would fall under the classical definition of sedition; even the British, who devised the law to protect their monarchy, have thrown it out.

None of the six had written about any topic that could be seen to have inflamed racial or religious tensions. They merely did their jobs as journalists, trying to keep the public informed.

Susan Loone, released after a full day's questioning. [Photo: Kwong Wah]

Susan Loone, released after a full day’s questioning. [Photo: Kwong Wah]

Susan Loone’s report had quoted a politician as saying he had been treated like a criminal, and the Penang police took exception. She and Malaysakini have long been reviled by Umno and their henchmen in Penang for their coverage, as with other online media, of the DAP and its administration of the Penang government.

If her story was wrong, the police and the politician involved could have denied it, and asked Malaysiakini for a retraction.

Lionel Morais, Amin Iskandar and Zulkifli Sulong had collectively published a report about what they were informed was a decision by the Rulers’ Conference which was subsequently denied. Jahabar Sadiq and Ho Kay Tat have executive reponsibilities over the Insider but did not directly handle the Rulers’ Conference story.

How low will Khairy go?

If the story was wrong, the office of the Rulers’ Conference could have denied it and asked for a retraction. But a police report was made instead — and Khairy Jamaluddin of Umno Youth, ambitious beyond his years, was quick to egg on the police. How low can an Oxford grad stoop?

Besides the Rulers’ Conference story, the Insider and the Edge have produced extensive coverage of the finances and management of 1MDB funds, amounting to billions that belong to the people. The company has RM42bn of debts. There are questions about how the money was used and where it went.

These are valid concerns of all the people, and it is the duty of the professional journalist to find out about current events and keep the people informed. That was what all six did.

Insider editors detained in the police lockup

Insider editors detained in the police lockup

For that they were arrested, and the five handcuffed, fingerprinted, thrown into the lockup overnight, and an attempt sought to further remand the Insider trio — sensibly denied by a magistrate who could not see the need to continue to lock up three journalists.

There is no justification for the police action against the six journalists under the Sedition Act. None. There is no justification for the police to clearly want to humiliate the Insider five through arrest and detention.

» SEE: Treating journos like terrorists

Journalism is not a crime, but the Royal Malaysia Police have now made it plain and simple — reporting the news has become a criminal offence. And it appears that Khairy Jamaluddin and other such so-called personalities will do everything they can to instigate the police.

All this is in addition to the police having already beaten up 14 journalists in 2012, for which no one has accepted responsibility and for which no one has been charged.

Police targeted media, says Suhakam

The tax investigation of Tong Kooi Ong, owner of the Edge-Insider group, falls into this pattern of vindictive punitive action. After the 1MDB issue blew up in public, an anonymous blog — like many of Umno’s paid cybertroopers — launched a smear campaign to vilify Tong as having forced down the value of the ringgit through foreign exchange manipulations — against all prevailing views that the collapse of the ringgit has to do with the falling price of crude oil, as well as the weakness of the Malaysian economy.

1MDB has clearly become a sacred cow not to be questioned by anyone, not even journalists, whose professional duty is to question and to inform. Just as clearly the police seem willing to be stooges of the Najib administration in protecting the sacred cow.

A police force of guttersnipes

At the same time, the police, in Susan Loone’s case as with the Bersih 14, appear to have placed themselves and their actions as beyond question, through their willingness to use physical violence and now the Sedition Act supposedly to protect their so-called “image”.

The only image that results from all these actions — notwithstanding the fact that all the six have said that the individual policemen treated them well — is that the Royal Malaysia Police as a whole have no interest in justice or the people’s concerns, but are willing to be a brutal, vindictive, goon squad without qualms about protecting those in power. By these actions the force has become a disgrace to a citizenry yearning for justice, and a disgrace to the “royal” that forms part of their name. Having descended into the gutter, they have taken the word “royal” along with them.

How much lower will they stoop?

Down with IGP Khalid, D5 and PDRM

Did councillor pay to free reporter’s car?

Fri 2015-Apr-17 @ MYT 10:50:32 am

• Money and favours: press ethics at stake
• In Penang, a question of possible corruption
• Did councillor get anything in return?


File photo: Council staff issuing a parking summons

File photo: Council staff issuing a parking summons


Disturbing questions arise from a letter to Malaysiakini published last night, a condensed version of which is below. A law lecturer says a Penang councillor paid the fee to release a reporter’s car that had been impounded for a parking offence. He heard about it from the reporter’s Facebook (the posting has since been deleted, I’m told).

If the incident is true, it was stupid of the reporter to have asked a politician for a favour that involves fines, compounded fines, or money. It was stupid of the politician to have done so.

The exchange of money, in cash or kind, in return for favours is probably best described as corruption, but whether it is an offence in law has to be determined.

But the fact that this account has surfaced puts the whole journalism community on the spot, and not only in Penang.

What will journalists do about this?

Issue a statement? Pretend it never happened? Ask for a favour to cover it up?

Freedom of the press is under attack not just by policemen using the law to jail journalists, but by the actions of journalists themselves when they exchange favours or trade information.

Will journalists themselves do anything about this?

The letter to Malaysiakini (condensed) is below.

Read more…

A distasteful time at Hameediyah’s

Wed 2015-Apr-15 @ MYT 18:56:51 pm

An early briyani dinner at an old favourite turned into something quite distasteful on Monday evening. Hameediyah was fairly quiet at about 7pm, just one person at the table downstairs and one couple upstairs: there is a different feel to the place nowadays, with kitchen and serving crew almost all foreign workers, many of them recent arrivals.

Closing the chapter on half a century of patronage They seemed to be different from the crew present when the restaurant reopened just before Hari Raya last year.

The Nepali boy upstairs brought a teh ais, following up with two chicken briyanis from the dumb waiter, then seemed a little confused when asked to pour away some of the too-milky tea and top it off afresh, to lessen the awful sweetness. After a little explaining, he said in English, “You want less sugar?” He clattered away downstairs, reappearing with a full glass. It was a little less awful but had been watered down.

A slim Tamil-speaker came clattering up the stairs, exchanged sentences in Hindi with the Nepali, then shouted noisily in Tamil down the stairwell to someone below.

The sudden clamour almost brought back some of the atmosphere of the plain old noisy Hameediyah, but only for a moment, as we tucked in: the chicken briyani was up to the usual standards but the dalcha in a combined serving was hardly enough for two, though the requisite potatoes and brinjals rose above the waterline. The timun, though, had a little extra “kick” from the chilli-vinegar sauce.

The couple behind us moved off, another couple took a nearby table, ordering roti telur and a pair of men noisily took the long table by the window to await their friends. Read more…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 781 other followers

%d bloggers like this: