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Political hacks knife media ‘pimps and prostitutes’

Wed 2012-Feb-8 @ +08 09:00:37 am
Media-bashing seems to be the flavour of the month. Sakmongkol AK47 just the other day bashed away again at the “prostitution of the mainstream media” meaning the Umno-owned media of Utusan Malaysia, and New Straits Times and Berita Harian, both now owned by Media Prima together with all commercial TV stations.

Hatchet man?

Sakmongkol also took a whack at the “secretive cells” in online media aided and abetted by once-powerful news personalities. By online media, I take it he means a certain circle of anonymous bloggers whose personal attacks on people they don’t like, especially opposition politicians, can be vicious and unrelenting. Given that Sakmongkol is himself not just a respectable blogger but also a respected one (besides being an opposition politician now), his anger is quite understandable. Also, if they could hit below the belt over a politician’s son and an executive councillor, they could also go after him and Aspan Alias in very personal terms.

On the other hand, Malaysiakini’s mat salleh columnist, a former advertising man,  puts the knife into all Malaysian press journalists, whom he labels “press pariahs“, and says they should quit the press and seek work elsewhere, like online or abroad. And then he says they’re not good enough to work abroad.

Writing a piece to bash Malaysian media is quite simple.

Who owns the media?

Just pretend you don’t know that the Malaysian media is owned by political parties. Pretend you don’t know that newspaper owners expect political coverage favourable to them. Pretend you don’t know that editorial bosses are chosen by political party leaders.

Is journalism only about politics?

Pretend that journalism is only about politics, politicians and nothing else. Ignore the sports and business journalists, motoring and computer journalists, entertainment and show business journalists and fashion journalists. Pretend they don’t exist, or just lump them all together and lambast them. Are you a Malaysian journalist? You’re a pimp and prostitute to politicians, and a pariah.

Who appoints editors? Who decides on coverage?

Just to make sure you write a damning article, pretend you don’t know that the editorial people who control, write and publish political coverage are executives — not members of the National Union of Journalists. Pretend you don’t know that unionised staff don’t make big political decisions, and that editorial executives rewrite copy and headlines to please their political and editorial bosses.

Does ‘mainstream’ mean ownership by political parties?

And finally pretend that working in a party-owned newspaper is the same as working in the so-called “mainstream” media of the west. Ignore the fact that in Malaysia “mainstream media” is the same as “mainstream” newspapers in communist countries where one political party owns the newspapers, just as Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian, Media Prima and commercial television are all owned (directly or indirectly) by one political party.

Do journalists have control?

So instead of attacking the politicians and their appointed poodles, stick the knife into all Malaysian journalists just because they work in party-owned newspapers and sneer at them because they don’t work for Pakatan Rakyat-friendly media.

Are journos at the People’s Daily also prostitutes?

Why not compare the Umno-owned newspapers and the MCA-owned Star to the People’s Daily and the English-language China Daily of Beijing (both owned by the central committee of the Communist Party of China) in terms of ownership and control.

Why not compare them to Pravda (owned by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and later the Russian party) and Isvestia (owned by the Soviet government)?

Are expats at China Daily also prostitutes?

But that would spoil the argument of political hachet men. By ignoring the question of ownership, it becomes easy to label Malaysian journalists as political pimps and prostitutes.

You could say the same about those working at the People’s Daily, or China Daily’s foreign expat staff: are they not political prostitutes for accepting Communist Party money and helping a paper to toe the Communist Party line?

High standards and ethics at western media

But it is easier to make invidious remarks about Malaysian press journalists comparing them to supposedly high ideals at the New York Times (where a reporter once cooked up a story, causing the resignation of senior editors, or the Washington Post (where another reporter was suspended for plagiarism) or the Sunday Herald-Sun of Melbourne (owned by News Ltd, Rupert Murdoch, prop.) which recently caused a police raid on its competitor The Age (owned by Fairfax Media) putting a whistleblower at risk, or the UK’s Sun, News of the World and The Times where reporters and editors have been under criminal investigation in a phone hacking scandal that has brought about a wide-ranging public investigation by the Leveson Inquiry into UK press ethics and standards. The Times withheld information that a detective blogger’s identity was blown by after a reporter hacked the man’s email. Shouldn’t the editor of The Times be jailed for perversion of justice? Would he have revealed it if the Guardian had not exposed the hacking scandal at the News of the World, leading to the Leveson inquiry?

Obviously western journalists have far superior standards and a higher sense of moral purpose.

Have western journos revolted against their owners yet?

It’s true that Malaysian journalists have yet to turn against their owners. They should. But then I haven’t seen any mass revolts lately by journalists at News International, or the Wall Street Journal, the Fox television network, the West Australian, or the Straits Times, the Hindu, or the South China Morning Post which has now got a Beijing-friendly editor as well as three Malaysians, former senior executives of The Star, in senior advisory positions.

But media critics seem to expect Malaysian journalists to do what journalists in other countries don’t and defy their owners or expose the owners in their own newspapers.

They’re either daft, blind, or just spinning some political party’s line.

There are two ways to be fooled: One is to believe what isn’t so; the other is to refuse to believe what is so.
Soren Kierkegaard

Works of Love


  1. formerjourno permalink
    Wed 2012-Feb-8 @ +08 13:40:54 pm 13:40

    Excellent piece. I was always quite irritated when the journos are blamed as opposed to the way the system works, which has been flawed for a long long time. Of course there are those type of journos being called out by the haters, but at the same time, there are also the journos who are completely the opposite and may actually live up to the standards these haters proclaim to be the ideal.

    There is no perfect system, even lobbyists get their way with the Western papers. But I think there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.

  2. Thu 2012-Feb-9 @ +08 11:01:45 am 11:01

    Pro BN/ government owned media wil always trumpet the merits of their political masters. As long as all forms of printed media is so controlled, there is nothing much the oppisition supporters can do except usage of the internet based media and if possible, their own print media.”When we work for the army, our job is to shoot the enemy”. Easily understood? Everyone expects journalists to attain certain unbiased standards, but in reality, this is few and far in between. Only time will tell.

  3. Kalingin permalink
    Thu 2012-Feb-9 @ +08 17:20:06 pm 17:20

    Quite right to point out flaws in media practice in the West. The only difference as I see it is that there are many owners and many different points of view in UK for example whereas in Malaysia one political party (or group of them) is allowed to dominate print and media. So you do get a choice elsewhere, even in Murdoch-land, which is what freedom is all about. I do object to journos being labelled pimps and prostitutes for working in certain establishments Would you say that about employees in the civil service? It’s the journos and editors who deliberately go out of the way to lie and manufacture events! As well as those who withhold information, who deserve the greatest opprobrium.

    • Thu 2012-Feb-9 @ +08 20:18:20 pm 20:18

      The UK has Conservative papers (Times, Telegraph, Mail) and Labour papers (Guardian, Mirror) and undecided (Sun, Indy). In other parts of the world, there’s only one paper in town: most US cities, most Australian cities are like that. Berlusconi owns half of national television in Italy, the biggest ad agency, the biggest publisher, and two rightwing papers. The supposed variety of choice in commentary and information in the West is sometimes an illusion.

  4. nickebleu permalink
    Thu 2012-Feb-9 @ +08 20:30:23 pm 20:30

    On your sidebar under JOURNOS, why are you giving Aziz, Chun Wai, Kadir, Mat Talib, and Rocky undeserved links? Why not Kit Siang, Zorro Unmasked and some others? Does that say something about your position?

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Thu 2012-Feb-9 @ +08 21:36:48 pm 21:36

      Kit Siang is not a journalist. He doesn’t need publicity from me anyway. Zorro is listed but not as a journo. If you have recommendations, I’d be glad to have a look. All listings are personal choices, just like the two joke feeds.

  5. lestrada permalink
    Wed 2012-Feb-15 @ +08 19:03:23 pm 19:03

    Are you sure your sidebar JOURNOS list comprises journalists? They are more like human propaganda machines.

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Thu 2012-Feb-16 @ +08 00:39:50 am 00:39

      No joke? 😉


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