Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alternative media is Umno’s punching bag

Malaysian politicians need to get rid of their inflated egos if they are by any stretch of trust truly servants of the rakyat. For one, they have to stop ‘manhandling’ and manipulating the alternative media, all because these unscrupulous politicians are unable to use it as a means to an end to serve their political agenda.

These politicians, be they from the ruling government front or the opposition camp must stop their insidious plots of deceiving the very people they have promised to look after.

Be it Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who could not withstand The Heat’s blistering truth of his spendthrift ways and got it suspended indefinitely or his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin who decided he had an axe to grind with online news portals, these seasoned politicians continue to perform a great disservice to the very country they are supposed to respect and take care of.
Ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition reinstated its long-standing ban on online media journalists ahead of the May 5 general election when it barred news portals from covering Najib’s announcement of BN’s general election candidates at the Umno headquarters.
The Umno secretariat then said it was based on “orders from the top” and added that the ban was only recently instituted.
The online media were similarly banned from the post-BN supreme council meeting press conference on April 4 last year.
Umno’s arrogance in eating the humble pie will cost it dearly. The BN government seems to not have learned its lesson after the “cyber war” defeat during the 2008 general election debacle.
Trying to give Umno a dose of its own medicine, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, since taking power in Penang, sought to rule out Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia and TV3 from its events.
Three days ago, Muhyiddin who is also Umno deputy president barred a news portal from covering his press conference on price hike issues claiming the online news portal was “not on the approved media list”.
But politicians are not willing to forgive easily nor do they believe in letting bygones be bygones. How else does one then interpret Muhyiddin’s refusal to allow the particular online media the right to stay true to its readers and highlight the current issue of price hikes?
Umno’s ‘favourite’ punching bag
It has become more of a norm than an exception for these politicians especially those from the Umno camp to ‘punish’ the ‘reform’ media for having the gumption to tell the truth.
From disallowing them entry to press conferences, the other ‘option’ the government and its agencies never shy away from is to slap news portals with threats of law suits.
One example was in April 2012 when news portal FreeMalaysiaToday was slapped with a defamation suit by Lynas with the latter claiming that both FMT and SMSL (Save Malaysia Stop Lynas) were making ‘false and misleading statements”.
As for the Umno politicians, they did what they also do best – sow a discord by claiming that Malaysians who objected the Lynas plant were seeking to assist the rare earth industry in China.
Unable to dictate terms to the ‘new age’ media, the Umno regime has decided to turn news portals as its punching bag, punishing the publication for its commitment towards highlighting the truth without fear or favour.
Bullying the media seems to have become a favourite affair with Umno. Shooting arrows at online portals has become synonymous with the country’s largest political party.
Truth cannot be hidden
The high-handedness displayed by Umno in preventing the ‘non-government aligned’ media from carrying out its responsibility to their readers is unacceptable.
What is more troubling is that the arm-twisting modus operandi has now been extended to public space.
It is these politicians who need to be reprimanded for pushing press freedom in the country to an all time low last year, with Malaysia ranking 145 of the 179 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, falling 23 spots to its lowest ever position from the previous ranking of 122 in 2011-2012.
Just how long more does Umno intend to go on bullying the alternative media into not reporting the truth?
The truth as in the words of former British prime minister Winston Churchill is “incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is”.

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