Said Zahari, editor and freedom fighter
Said Zahari, 1928-2016
journalist and editor
Said Zahari, one-time editor of Utusan Melayu, died earlier today at the age of 88.
Born and raised in Singapore, he was a journalist for Utusan Melayu, the first Malay-language newspaper, and became editor at its main office in Kuala Lumpur in 1959. Two years later, he led a three-month strike to try to preserve its editorial independence from Umno, which had bought the paper.
He was banned from Malaya, and returned to Singapore, going into politics to help form an alternative to Lee Kuan Yew’s People’s Action Party. In February 1963 he joined Partai Rakyat (People’s Party) and was elected to its leadership. That same night, Lee Kuan Yew’s government launched mass arrests under Operation Cold Store clearing the way of opposition to the formation of Malaysia. Said Zahari was held under the Internal Security Act for over 17 years.
On his release, he came to live in Malaysia to be with his family.
» PATRIOTIC, POWERFUL AND PRINCIPLED
» Said Zahari’s Long Nights
A review of Pak Said’s memoirs, Dark Clouds at Dawn
By Miriam Mokhtar
Who was Said Zahari? His memoirs, Dark Clouds at Dawn and the Malay version called Dalam Ribuan Mimpi Gelisah: Memoir Said Zahari give an interesting insight into the man. There are some uncomfortable truths, which will certainly divide opinion. He was fearless, and possessed an uncompromising attitude, when it mattered.
As the editor, of Utusan Melayu, Said Zahari led a strike in 1961, to protest against a takeover of the paper, by the government of the day. The government demanded that the paper, conform to its policy. Said refused to back down, when confronted by an Umno man called Ibrahim Fitri, who was sent to pressure Said Zahari.
By 1961, despite Said Zahari being aware that the board of directors at Utusan Melayu, was under the control of a few Umno individuals, he was full of hope. He thought that the role of an independent press was to provide the rakyat with the confidence to speak openly about contentious issues, and thus enable both political and economic reforms to take place.
Uppermost in Said Zahari’s mind was the original aims of Utusan Melayu, which were to champion the cause of the people and be an outlet for their ideas. The paper, co-founded by Yusuf Ishak in 1939, was the first Malay-owned newspaper, had three aims in its mission statement, “To serve the religion, the people and the country.” Yusuf Ishak later became the first President of Singapore.
When Ibrahim Fikri put his four demands to Said Zahari, the latter and the staff in Utusan Melayu retaliated. They were shocked by the arrogance of Umno and later led the Malay-driven strike, which lasted for 100 days, to protect the independence of Utusan Melayu. The strike was apparently broken when Said Zahari was prevented from entering Malaya, after a visit to the newspaper’s offices in Singapore. Read more…
A plea for more facts and less propaganda in news columns
By Gobind Rudra
A muted voice in the journalism wilderness
Walter Pincus, defence and security correspondent of the Washington Post, retired this week after 40 years. In his farewell piece, Pincus raises questions about the pernicious effect of influence-peddlers dictating the news agenda, and how the relentless drive to capture eyeballs on the Web demeans journalists. It’s the same story with us.
Over the past decade, Malaysian journalism has been subverted by the politician and the adman, with little difference between the two except for the products they sell. Online media have become stooges of opposition politicians and the regime-change movement. They have little reason to look down upon the politically-owned press.
Malaysia remains a long way from achieving anything like a free press — especially when opposition politicians who loudly proclaim their belief in the virtues of a free press show in practice that they don’t care for free and independent journalism, but merely want a megaphone, a pulpit, and journalists to dress up their words. That’s what they’ve managed to achieve with online media. What would they do once in power?A Farewell to The Washington Post
By Walter Pincus
an extract from his farewell column
Leaving The Post, I have three concerns — not about this newspaper, but related to journalism as a whole, the profession which I love.
One is how much more influential the media has grown to become, first with television news shows, then 24-hour cable and now with the Internet and Twitter.
The second is how much better so-called newsmakers have become at influencing what is written and broadcast to the public. In many ways I feel journalistic ventures have become “common carriers,” printing whatever newsmakers say — even if they know them to be untrue or inflammatory — just because the person involved was willing to be quoted and because such stories generate readers, viewers and, these days, hits on the Web.
The third is that the current competitive rush to be first in both breaking news and slick commentary is leaving behind the facts related to the complex issues of our time. Facts seem to be taking a back seat to arguments and slogans in what’s written and shown. That means the public is left to make up their minds on important subjects by choosing between arguments without knowing much about the facts that may or may not underlie them.
In short, we have been moved further into a PR society and, sadly, public relations has become a key part of government and our politics.
Thank you, Walter.