It is time the authorities deal with the root causes of the people’s grievances over the electoral process instead of indulging in propaganda that insults the the rakyat’s intelligence, says Ronald Benjamin.
While recuperating in a hospital, I had the opportunity to analyse national news on a television opposite my bed – the type of information disseminated to the public on current issues especially the Bersih rally.
It was not surprising that the entire news section over four channels and advertisements were geared towards demonising the Bersih struggle,without even giving the organisers any opportunity to reply to the allegations. For instance, there was the ‘revelation’ that the police had found weapons which allegedly could be used on the day of the rally – merely an opinion without any credible evidence to reveal who the real culprits are.
Then there was an advertisement depicting a mother who wanted to buy food for her child but the shop had to close early due to the so-called demonstration. The shop-keeper and the mother both condemned the so-called ‘illegal gathering’ .The term ‘illegal gathering’ was frequently uttered without any balanced analysis of the issues surrounding this gathering and the reason for the rally.
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The question that came to my mind: is Malaysia really a country that is prepared to come under the category of ‘developed nations’, when its mainstream media have lost all sense of truth (in terms of verification) and objectivity? Is it not the role of the media to enlighten the masses through balanced reporting so that Malaysians as whole can make informed decisions about the country’s destiny?
There is a counter argument that the online media provide a platform for opposition parties, but the truth is the alternative media provide also avenues for government leaders. These online media portals carry interviews with leaders of extremist groups like Perkasa and even reproduce Utusan Malaysia editorials.
Furthermore, Malaysians of all political leanings pay taxes to the government and that requires the media to engage in balanced reporting. We don’t pay taxes to finance the alternative online media.
From these obvious flaws that could be seen in the mainstream media, the Bersih organisers have made a valid point about the role of the media in ensuring a fair election. Instead of addressing this shortcoming, political turncoats and intellectual chameleons were more focused on Anwar Ibrahim and the mischief that he could allegedly cause.
The quest for free and fair elections has its own history of struggle, which is beyond individuals. It is time the authorities deal with the root causes of the grievances instead of indulging in propaganda to deceive people and, in the process, insulting the intelligence of thinking Malaysians.
For Malaysia to become a developed nation, the media have an important role to play in facilitating critical thinking among the population through balanced and objective reporting of events.
Ronald Benjamin is an Aliran member based in Ipoh.