The new toll hike announced by Works Minister Samy Vellu yesterday was duly reported by the mainstream press. Worse, it was reported in a manner that can only be interpreted as an unabashed apology for the government's callous push for toll rate hikes on highways around KL city.
The New Straits Times, for example, splashed the news on its front page with the intro, 'Klang Valley residents have been spared a much higher toll hike from Jan 1 through the cushioning effect of RM2.589 billion in government compensation to concessionaires', as if to provide readers and KL highway users a sense of relief.
How much relief can a consumer get when the government has actually compensated the concessionaires using taxpayers' money while forcing consumers and taxpayers to pay for yet another round of toll hikes – and this after many of them have paid their road taxes! Is this a mark of a caring government?
As if not to be outdone, The Star's editorial says that 'Government has little option but to allow a rise in toll rates'. Poor thing. It looks like the government has no choice but to clinch a one-sided deal with the concessionaires after knowing full well the serious implications it would have on the welfare of the people, especially the poor.
It makes it even harder for people to believe that the government's hands are tied in this matter when it has actually instructed mainstream newspaper editors not to highlight grievances expressed by the the public.
Isn't this what the government ministers really mean when they caution or remind newspapers to practise 'responsible journalism'?