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Rais talks dirty about how to edit news

Thu 2012-May-3 @ +08 09:41:50 am

Information minister Rais Yatim, he of the PhD from King’s College, London, seems to have suffered a lapse of memory about the meaning of truth and integrity of information.

His remarks yesterday, about how Astro butchered a newscast by BBC World News, conveniently misses the whole point of why the BBC protested. It was about how Astro, using the excuse of meeting Malaysian government “content guidelines” had violated the editorial integrity of the newscast on the Bersih mass rally in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Rais says Astro showed the best bits. Bollocks.

Instead, the information minister chose to speak about how Astro had shown only the “best parts” of the Bersih rally. Malaysian Insider quotes him as saying: “Each broadcasting house is at liberty to exercise its own style of eliciting the best news item for its station. It has to be given credit for knowing which part of the news is newsworthy and therefore they should exercise that within their rights of itself as a broadcasting firm.

Bollocks, minister.

Astro has a contractual obligation with the BBC, and that contractual obligation would usually include a proviso that news reports are used as is or not at all.

Rais Yatim talks of the BBC as if it were merely an Astro stringer, filing raw copy on spec, for Astro to use or edit at its own discretion, an insult to the corporation’s hard-earned reputation for integrity and balance, the recent episode of paid and planted broadcasts for the Malaysian government notwithstanding.

That failing of the BBC was a failing of the cozy and sleazy relationship between big-name PR companies and big-name media.

If Rais were to take the trouble, he might well discover a similar sleazy relationship between content producers and the taxpayer-funded radio and television stations under his charge.

But perhaps he already is well aware of the dirt within, and has come to regard the BBC as nothing more than just another content producer.

More to the point, Rais’s remark reflects a warped and distorted view about how a professional news outfit would treat the integrity of news and the integrity of information.

Any newspaper columnist whose thoughts are “edited”, with inconvenient words and phrases slashed to suit the business or political convenience of a newspaper, and the integrity of his thoughts violated, would howl in fury.

Just ask Azmi Sharom or Marina Mahathir. They have.

If Rais cannot understand that, it raises into question the integrity of his scholarship for his doctoral dissertation on the excesses of executive power under the Mahathir Mohamad regime.

It is reputed that academia demands rigorous scholarship and utmost respect for truth. Honest journalism makes the same demands.

No honest Malaysian journalist would agree with Rais Yatim’s statement that Astro had the right to chop and change BBC copy to suit its own tastes — or that of the political master who twiddle the strings to the broadcasting licence.

Was his doctoral dissertation also based on such a shallow and shoddy approach towards scholarship and seeking truth?

Rais Yatim’s makes one thing clear: he knows bollocks about journalism and editing. The only question then remaining is whether the information minister understands what integrity of information means. If so, should we regard his academic credentials, his doctoral dissertation, as just another load of bollocks?

That would be politically convenient for him. After all, he has publicly repudiated his own scholarship and the integrity of his doctoral dissertation as “just an academic exercise”.

And yet he could quip that Bersih 3.0 was “Kotor 3.0”. He truly has a filthy mind, a mind and a mouth that spews artful bollocks.

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